All Anthony Lorenzano wanted to do this season was quarterback Calvert during its homecoming game against Leonardtown. Even when he was sidelined last month with a mysterious back injury, the sophomore varsity rookie circled Friday's game for his comeback.
Lorenzano never got on the field for Calvert's 24-21 overtime loss to the Raiders, but that's okay. He hopes to have a bigger homecoming next month.
After absorbing a hard hit in Calvert's game against La Plata on Sept. 10, Lorenzano's sprained back turned out to be much worse.
On Monday, Lorenzano learned that six MRI exams showed he had a golf-ball-size benign tumor on the middle of his spine. He is scheduled to have it removed at Georgetown University Hospital on Nov. 3.
"It comes out of nowhere," said Lorenzano, who played on the football, basketball and baseball junior varsity teams last year. "I'm real healthy. I'm active. I eat well. I don't smoke or drink. You never think this could happen to you."
Doctors have not determined how long Lorenzano will be in the hospital, how long he will need to stay in bed, when he can start physical therapy or when he can return to school. One thing they are certain of, though, is that had it not been diagnosed for another year or so, it could have damaged his spine and caused paralysis.
When Lorenzano received the diagnosis, "he didn't hear anything until the word paralysis came up," said his father, Jim Lorenzano. "Then he perked up."
Not long after that, so did Cavaliers Coach Ed Hottle and the rest of the Cavaliers. After the hit during the La Plata game, they thought Lorenzano just had a bad back, which had bothered him a little in August during practice. Football players pride themselves on their toughness, so they expected Lorenzano to push through.
As the team boarded the bus to travel to McDonough for a game Oct. 1, Lorenzano told Hottle that he couldn't play. Hottle was stunned.
"I'm thinking, 'You mean to tell me now that you can't play?' " Hottle said. "Then after [the MRI results came back], I thought back to that. I just felt horrible for thinking that."
Donovan Harris, a close friend of Lorenzano's on the Cavaliers, thought similarly. He had taken a helmet to the back last season and knew how tender that spot could be.
Last year, "I got a back pad," Harris said. "So I was asking him, 'Why don't you get a back pad?' I didn't see what the big deal was."
Little did the rest of the Cavaliers know that three days before the McDonough game, Lorenzano threw up blood four or five times at home. His parents took him to the hospital, where he was told he might have an ulcer. He was given a painkiller and sent home.
After the pain continued for the next two weeks, Lorenzano was scheduled to have an MRI, a CAT scan and X-rays. The tumor was detected. It was growing on the inside of his spine, where it could not be felt protruding through his back.
"When he told me I couldn't believe it," Harris said. "I was like, 'You have a what on your spine?' "
The tumor also caused fragments of his spinal cord to flake away, Jim Lorenzano said. The surgery not only will remove the tumor but also fuse together three or four vertebrae that the tumor is essentially holding together.
"All in all, the news has been pretty positive considering what it could have been," Jim Lorenzano said.
Still, he will be crossing his fingers until his son comes out of surgery next month. Jim Lorenzano knows the toughest part is not his son's recovery, but making sure Anthony sticks to it and does not rush his body back to full speed. For a kid who plays three sports year-round, that's easier said than done.
"Everybody [at Calvert] has been asking me how I'm feeling, wishing me good luck and all that," Anthony Lorenzano said. "Some of the guys said before the Great Mills game [which Calvert won, 17-14], 'We're going to win this one for you.' It makes you feel real good."