For the sixth time in his tenure as the Central head coach, Anthony Hines will try to lead his team to the program’s first-ever win over Westside.
The Chargers are 0-7 all-time against their rivals, and they are 0-5 with Hines as their head coach. The Seminoles have outscored the Chargers 213-33 since the rivalry was re-booted in 2004.
“This is our big rivalry game,” Hines said. “This is a game we want to win.”
But this year’s game holds a little more importance for the 44-year-old head coach.
Hines is less than three weeks removed from a 20-day hospital stay following two strokes. He spent 17 days in the Medical Center’s neurological intensive care unit.
“I have a new respect for life right now, I’ll tell you that,” Hines said Tuesday, about two weeks after first returning to Central’s practice field. “You just have to enjoy every part of life, and I really enjoy being out here with our football players.”
Hines hasn’t resumed full head coaching duties, instead allowing offensive coordinator Brent Thornton to handle a heavy load of coaching. Thornton was named the interim head coach following Hines’ hospitalization, and he has remained the vocal leader at practice.
The doctors told Hines that he needs to cut down on his stress level, in addition to staying hydrated and taking a substantial amount of medicine.
“Telling a football coach to not get stressed, is like telling me not to breathe,” said Hines, who admitted his wife wasn’t thrilled about his quick return to practice. “But I’m taking all the precautions I can. I’m being smart about this.”
Hines said he might spend tonight’s season opener against Westside coaching from the press box. He said he thought it might help him keep his emotions in check as he eases into his full return.
“Sometimes we take life for granted, especially when it comes to certain things,” Westside head coach Sheddrick Risper said. “When it comes to life-threatening things, football is on the back burner. I’m glad to see Coach Hines is doing well and glad to see him back.”
That return didn’t look like a sure thing late last month.
Hines went to the doctor at the urging of his wife after struggling to deal with what he thought were migraine headaches.
After one visit to the doctor didn’t help, Hines got an MRI, where it was discovered he had some bleeding in the brain.
“I was having migraines so bad, I was sleeping between pillows for the pressure,” he said. “When the doctor said I had bleeding in the brain, I completely lost it.”
Hines was immediately checked into the hospital, where he was told he suffered a stroke.
Things got worse before they better for Hines, who suffered a second stroke as the result of an infection that sent his temperature spiking to 107 degrees.
Hines had little idea of what happened following the second stroke. He was “out of it” for about two days, remembering only about crying about his daughter.
“That’s pretty scary when you’re wondering what is going on every day,” Central senior Kelcey Butts said. “We’re used to seeing him every day, and then he’s gone. It was really tough.”
But after doctors regained control following the second stroke, Hines began his quick recovery. He was walking around the ICU quickly after the second stroke. He began watching as much sports as possible, hoping to get his football fix while he couldn’t be around his players.
Hines drew strength from his wife, two children, his parents and his church family from Greater Bellevue Baptist. His took inspiration from his father’s successful battle against cancer and his brother’s recovery from a life-threatening car accident.
Thornton made daily visits, giving Hines a little bit of familiarity with what was going on at practice while he was gone. Hines and Thornton coached together at Southwest before coming over to Central. He was comfortable leaving the team in the hands of Thornton and defensive coordinator Andre Taylor, who has been at Central since Hines arrived.
“Coach Thornton and Coach (Andre) Taylor did a super job in my absence,” Hines said.
Hines made the decision to return rather quickly after he left the hospital. After hearing that he would be fine and suffer no lasting effects if he listened to his doctors’ orders, Hines returned to the practice field one day at the end of practice.
“The coaches broke down practice and told us to run to him at the other end of the field,” Butts said. “I don’t know if some of us have ever ran that fast.”
But Hines’ return has been anything but normal.
A few days before the Chargers’ first game, Hines was still trying to get caught up.
“I think the best thing for me was to get back to a place where I’m comfortable,” Hines said. “My body is intact, and my mind is intact. I just needed another place where I feel at home.
“I’ve been gone for so long though. There are players out here I don’t even know. But the wins and losses don’t mean anything. In the scheme of life, it’s a game. I’ve won the bigger game by being out here.”