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Article Published December 26, 2018
Doheny’s Drive Made the Improbable Possible
Chris Negrini, Assistant Sports Editor

Eli Doheny found out that he had a hematoma in his left calf during the preseason of his final year with the North Haven football team. The senior captain lineman’s season was in jeopardy, but after undergoing hours of physical therapy, Eli rehabilitated his injury and got back on the line midway through the campaign. Eli finished his high school career by helping the Indians continue their winning tradition with an 8-3 season and a berth in the Class L State Playoffs.

Eli experienced a wave of emotions when he learned he could potentially miss his senior year. As a captain, Eli was ready to lead North Haven to success. Then, following the Indians’ first scrimmage versus Southington, Eli was notified that he might not even be able to play a game for North Haven.

“It was really emotional, being a senior captain. All I wanted to do was play. I was told I wouldn’t be able to play all season. Then, as the season went on, I started pushing myself a little more at home and in school—not just on the field,” Eli says. “I’m proud that I was able to keep my head up and be positive. Being hurt was tough, but I always stayed positive, and looked at the bright side. I knew it would get better.”

Eli put his energy into other aspects of his life when he was sidelined. Physical therapy provided one outlet for him to expend his energy. When the signs were pointing toward a more rapid recovery, Eli doubled down on his comeback effort.

“When I could start to do some light workouts, I really pushed myself. In school, I used that drive to be better when I couldn’t use it on the field,” says Eli. “Once we found that it was healing faster than expected, it gave me the drive to push through the rehab process and get on the field as quickly as possible.”

Eli relied on his legs to stop the offensive rush while manning the defensive line. As an offensive lineman, he used a quick burst of power to break through and wreak havoc. When Eli first returned to the field, he was a little nervous that his legs would be too weak for him to be effective. However, it didn’t take long for him to overcome those worries.

“My first practice back, I was nervous. My leg didn’t quite feel the same. Then, I realized it was my last chance to play football and got past it,” Eli says. “It was tough getting back into the swing of things at first, but come game time, I wasn’t as nervous. I was getting the hang of the way my leg was feeling. I was actually more excited to be back than nervous.”

Eli’s speed helped him thrive as a lineman. Eli knew his role and always did his utmost to give the Indians the best chance at making a big play.

“Once the ball is snapped, I try to get to the defender as fast as possible to get my hands on someone and pancake them. We were a run-heavy team, and I wanted to clear a hole for the running back to get through,” says Eli, who recorded 22 tackles on the season. “For defense, I was one of the faster linemen. We used my speed to get through the middle of things, so I could mess things up in the backfield and prevent them from getting yards.”

Head Coach Anthony Sagnella admires the way Eli responded to his adversity. That type of attitude is one of the biggest reasons why Eli was selected as a senior captain. In addition to his effort on the field, Eli also took the reins to help organize North Haven’s 2018 Spring Brawl fundraiser that raised $13,000 to support two year-old Cameron Wilson in his battle against leukemia. Wilson is the grandson of North Haven High School custodian Reese Varney.

“Coming into the season, Eli was our only returning starter on the offensive line. He and the coaching staff had high hopes, then he had this setback. Him getting back shows that he’s resilient. Eli was diligent in rehab, and he was at practice every day, setting a positive example. He got back into the groove of what he did best: Work hard. He’s a tough football player, and he brought that energy to both sides of the ball,” Sagnella says. “On top of his football attributes, he was a leader for our team in fundraising for the Spring Brawl. Eli took control of that, and was instrumental in helping us raise 13,000 dollars. His work goes farther than just on the football field.”

Eli feels grateful that he completed his high school football career alongside his teammates on the field. Eli thanks his mother Kathy Doheny for getting him through the tough times and teaching him how to stay positive throughout the process. Eli also thanks his coaches, as well as his trainer Anthony Amu, who helped him get back into action as quickly as possible. In the end, Eli learned a valuable lesson about the good things that can happen when you consistently give a big effort.

“Maybe I wasn’t the best athlete on the field, but I led by example. I tried to show that it doesn’t take size to show your toughness,” says Eli. “No matter how big you are, go for it. It doesn’t take a great athlete to give 110 percent.”