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84th DREAM GAME: Kowalski Ready To Make Return For City

July 14, 2018

PALMYRA TWP. — Mike Kowalski didn’t want to believe his season ended. A knifing pain in his lower leg suggested otherwise. After being taken off the field with an injury at halftime of North Pocono’s game at Valley View in the eighth week of his senior season, the three-year starter in the secondary had a premature conclusion to an outstanding career. He endured a surgery, powered through his rehabilitation, returned to play baseball and is ready to have a more celebrated final football memory before putting his athletic endeavors behind him. On Wednesday, Kowalski takes the field for the last time when he and his City teammates clash with the County all-stars in the 84th Scranton Lions Club Dream Game at 7 p.m. at John Henzes/Veterans Memorial Stadium — the site where he suffered his setback. “Any injury is tough,” said Kowalski, who showed no visible ailment during practice this week at Wallenpaupack High School. “That one in particular, the timing, I had to take a few months off of all athletic activity and as a young kid that is obviously tough, any of these guys will tell you. “You have to listen to what the doctors say even though our young minds think we know more than them. You just have to wait it out, because time is the only true healer.” During his run at North Pocono, Kowalski helped in the culture shift back to a playoff tradition after the program had only six wins in four seasons from 2011 to 2014. As a sophomore, he broke into the starting lineup and his quickness and ability to disguise coverages led to a season where he had four interceptions and four passes defended in a season where the Trojans finished 5-5. Then, as part of a dominant defense, Kowalski emerged as a shut-down corner. He had seven interceptions and 15 passes defended for the District 2 Class 4A champions. He also earned a spot on the Lackawanna Football Conference Division II all-star honorable mention list. Returning as the emotional locker room and off-field leader, Kowalski helped North Pocono as it tried to defend its championship. He had 22 tackles, four interceptions and 11 passes defended before his injury. His contributions were not overlooked as the LFC Division II coaches selected him as a first-team all-star. He watched from the sideline, though, as the Trojans had their season end in the District 2 Class 4A semifinals in a loss to Berwick. “You love the game of football, that’s why you play it,” Kowalski said. “Sitting out, especially at the end of my senior year was tough. But, that is part of the game, and it’s a part of life and you have to deal with that. “It’s what is great about this Dream Game. Removed from the season and being able to come back and have one last opportunity and meet some nice guys, play with some of my own teammates and make some new teammates, and have a great time playing the game you love.” Determined to return to action, Kowalski pushed through a painful rehabilitation. He returned to the diamond with the baseball team and had an outstanding spring, hitting .378 with 14 hits and six runs scored for the District 2 Class 5A champions. During the state playoffs, Kowalski, who is also a standout in the classroom and the LIAA scholar-athlete of the year, revealed that he was diagnosed with syndesmotic widening in his leg. His success in baseball rejuvenated his confidence in his football abilities and he is eager to show off his defensive skills for the City. “You want to play your heart out here,” Kowalski said. “They say every time in the season to play like it’s your last. I didn’t know when my last was and I was lucky enough to get this as my last game. “I am blessed for that and thankful for that. Really just live and enjoy every moment because it’s a privilege to play in this game.” Contact the writer: jbfawcett@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9125; @sportsTT on Twitter

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