WESTFIELD, NJ — It’s not easy to be a starting linebacker on an undefeated football team — especially with only one good hand. But Westfield High School senior Michael O’Connor is just that, as he continues to play for the 6-0 Blue Devils with a broken right hand.
O’Connor is this week’s Ron Bansky and Associates Allstate Westfield Athlete of the Week.
“It’s definitely weird, because you can't move one hand, but you can still use the arm, which makes it helpful at my position because I am still able to tackle,” O’Connor said. “When the adrenaline is rushing and you have that huge cast on, you can't really feel any pain.”
Despite his injury, O’Connor has been a standout player, notching two interceptions two weeks ago against Immaculata, as well as helping Westfield cruise to a 45-6 win over North Hunterdon Saturday.
“I didn't think about my hand. I just thought about catching that ball, and not fumbling once I caught it,” O’Connor said. “When you have a defensive line pressuring the quarterback consistently all game, it forces the quarterback to make some tough throws, and I happened to be at the right place to make a play.”
Westfield head coach Jim DeSarno, especially, has been impressed.
“He’s a three-year starter who’s playing at a very high level right now. He’s part of a defensive unit that is one of the best in the county,” DeSarno said. “We expect Michael to continue his great play and also his leadership as a captain to our team, especially the younger players.”
O’Connor gives a lot of credit to the rest of the defense as well as the coaches.
“The defense has been tremendous,” he said. “The d-line has played at such a high level, along with my fellow linebackers Owen Colwell, Jacob Kurstedt and Steven Barmakian. The defensive backs — Brett Robertshaw, Ishmael Glasco, Sid Douglas and Kyle Shirk — have done an excellent job locking up receivers and making tackles all year. It's been a lot of fun playing with such a great, tightly knit group. Coach Miller, Dayon, Aveena and Andzel have kept us hungry and prepared all year.”
The team will next take on Watchung Hills at Kehler at 1 p.m. on Saturday, where the Blue Devils look to keep their momentum going.
“Being undefeated is very exciting,” O’Connor said. “A lot of hard work and great coaching has made us ready for every game, and we're taking it one game at a time.”
Eric Storms is a student at Westfield High School participating in a journalism program with TAP into Westfield.
The Allstate Westfield Athlete of the Week is sponsored by Ron Bansky & Associates Allstate Agency. Located on the South Avenue Circle in Westfield, the agency has been protecting local families and business owners for over 15 years. Call them this week at 908-301-0711 for a new auto, home or life insurance quote and if you mention the Allstate WHS Athlete of the Week they will make a $25 contribution to the Westfield Boosters Association! To learn more, visit ronbansky.com.