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Prep football: Palmer bounces back for Blackjacks

Tribune photo by Tom Larson Dawson-Boyd running back Dalton Palmer stiff arms Canby linebacker Brock Nothem during a Section 5A semifinals game Saturday in Dawson. Palmer, whose 2012 season was ended by a serious back injury against Canby in the playoffs, has piled up almost 1,500 total yards and scored 21 touchdowns this season.

DAWSON — On Saturday, Dalton Palmer had a career day in Dawson-Boyd’s 25-20 win over Canby in the Section 5A football semifinals.

He ran for 142 yards and a touchdown and he caught passes of 60 yards and 70 yards, both going for touchdowns.

His 70-yard catch-and-run TD in the third quarter provided the winning points as the Blackjacks rallied from a 13-point halftime deficit.

A year ago, Palmer may have been thinking he’d be seeing his next football game from a wheelchair.

“Feels great to be back on the field,” said Palmer, who will start when the 9-1 Blackjacks play Wabasso in the section championship game on Friday at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall.

“I’m just lucky to be walking, is all I can say.”

In an Oct. 27, 2012 section semifinals game against Canby, the junior running back was running right, along the Blackjacks’ sideline, when he was upended and landed on his head.

He was taken from the field on a backboard and whisked away in an ambulance. Doctors discovered compression fractures in three vertebrae.

“They gave me a shot of morphine and two or three days later I went to Sioux Falls,” Palmer said. “The doctors told me I broke my back.”

His football season was obviously over. Initial recover and therapy took months.

“Way too long for me,” Palmer said.

Feeling antsy, Palmer tried to come back at the end of the Blackjacks’ wrestling season, competing at 138 and 145 pounds.

“I came back way too early and I kind of hurt (the back) again,” Palmer said. “That was a mistake.”

Palmer continued his therapy of stretches and work on a yoga ball. A golfer, Palmer said he didn’t have any issues last spring. But getting back on the football field was another matter.

“My parents backed me up on whatever I wanted to do; it was my choice,” Palmer said. “They have their doubts but they’ve always supported me in what I want to do. I’m thankful for that.”

Being a football player and role model are goals Palmer said he’s always strived for.

“I’ve always been a big football fan and I’ve always looked up to those guys who played before me,” Palmer said. “I wanted to be one of those guys and prove that I can play through something like that.”

There was little apprehension about his first contact when practice began in August.

“It’s one of those things where I had some doubts about it,” Palmer said, “but I’m one of those guys who leaves it all on the field so I wasn’t thinking about that first hit.”

Palmer has formed a solid backfield tandem with Mike Anyasike. Palmer has rushed for 1,119 yards on 121 carries — a 9.2-yard-per-carry average — and he’s run for 16 touchdowns. He’s caught 15 passes for 374 yards — a 24.9-yard average — and five TDs.

Palmer has returned 12 kickoffs for a 26.4-yard average and, from his linebacker position, he leads the team with 54 tackles. He’s tied on the team with five tackles for lost yards.

“He’s a big part of us,” said Blackjacks head coach Cory Larson. “He runs extremely hard and he’s not a big kid — 160, 165 pounds. But he plays much bigger than that because of the way he runs.”

Palmer does not plan to wrestle this winter, focusing instead on therapy. He may consider a return to the mat his senior season, he said.

The back injury will forever be a part of him so he’s not reticent about making the most of his high school sports career.

“The doctors told me that I’ll be living with it the rest of my life,” Palmer said. “If that’s the case, I’ll just keep going.”

Tom Larson

Tom Larson is the sports editor of the West Central Tribune.

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