84th DREAM GAME: Chollette Conquers Nagging Injuries

July 15, 2018

Andre Chollette burst upon the high school football scene like a runaway locomotive. In 2014, his future and the fortunes of the West Scranton football program looked promising after a 168-yard debut. Injuries became his most challenging opponent, however. In four years having played only 19 games while coping with a series of setbacks and haunted by some bad luck, Chollette, a darting playmaker, closes his career as a City all-star in the 84th Scranton Lions Club Dream Game on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at John Henzes/Veterans Memorial Stadium. “Mentally, all the injuries, hit me hard,” Chollette said. “It made me heartbroken. But I love the game of football. So, I kept coming back stronger to play.” During the preseason before his freshman season, Chollette grabbed the attention of coaches with his strength and speed. His sprinting and weight-lifting scores ranked among the top players on the roster. His abilities forced coach Brian Fahey to move Chollette up to the varsity roster. And the lightning-quick back wasted little time in validating that decision. After a pair of strong efforts in scrimmages, Chollette bobbed and weaved through the Riverside defense for 168 yards on only 20 carries and a touchdown in a 21-7 win. It was the first in a series of outstanding performances. Against North Pocono, Chollette ran for 148 yards and two touchdowns, and had 98 yards against powerful Delaware Valley and 109 yards against Scranton Prep. He finished with 772 yards and four touchdowns, and had seemingly limitless potential. “He’s a committed kid on and off the field, too,” Fahey said. “He has a terrific football IQ. He practices as hard as he plays. He was just an excellent teammate and a great kid.” In his sophomore season, Chollette suffered an ankle injury against Coughlin in Week 2. It didn’t sideline him, but did slow the 5-foot-8 scat back who relied heavily on his rapid and abrupt stops and starts to navigate through a defense. Following a 146-yard, two-touchdown game in a win over North Pocono, Chollette had his — and the Invaders’ — season halted by a teachers’ strike in the Scranton School District. Upon his return, another twist of his ankle did put him on the shelf and Chollette missed the remainder of the season and totaled only 297 yards and two touchdowns. A player driven by a solid work ethic, Chollette pushed himself in the weight room and in his conditioning to get back on the field. Then, fate stepped in again. While competing at a summer camp at Temple University in June before his junior season, the shifty back popped his ACL in the right knee. His season ended before it started. “Expectations were high after his freshman season and he was playing well as a sophomore, then the teachers’ strike, and injuries, and things that were just out of his control, hurt him,” Fahey said. “It was one of the tougher experiences you can have as a coach to see someone with such talent and such an outstanding work ethic unable to reap the rewards of his commitment.” Having lost a full season in his career, Chollette saw the window of his high school playing days closing. He pushed through offseason rehabilitation workouts to strengthen his compromised knee, committing himself to enjoying a triumphant return as a senior. During preseason practice, Chollette felt discomfort in his knee, again. This time, it came in the form of a damaged meniscus. Another surgical procedure put him out of commission for the first four weeks of 2017. West Scranton lost those four games. “It was very disappointing,” Chollette, 18, said. “It hurt me. It hurt our team. But, I had to keep pushing forward with what I have been doing the last three years. I came back and finished the season strong.” In the annual Battle for the Bell against city rival Scranton, Chollette took the field for the first time. He ran for 87 yards and a touchdown in a 35-20 loss. As healthy as he had been since his freshman year, he closed out the season and had 791 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns. “I’m happy for him because he was really good,” North Pocono linebacker Brett Butler said at City practice last week recalling how well Chollette played against the Trojans in 2015. Now Chollette, as a member of the City squad, has another chance to show his talents before heading to Lackawanna College. “I pulled him aside at practice and I told him how much I admired him when he was younger, and that we feared playing against him in the three years after his freshman year,” said Wallenpaupack coach Mark Watson, who is guiding the City all-star team. “This is what is great about the Dream Game. I told him, it’s nice to see him out on the field. It’s great to have him on this time. “I really admire him for what he has gone through.” Contact the writer: jbfawcett@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9125; @sportsTT on Twitter

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