BROCKWAY, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Blake Pisarcik stuck his right foot into the turf at DuBois during a Week 2 game last year to cut upfield.
His right knee buckled on that early September night.
His ACL snapped. The speedy sophomore’s season was over barely after it had begun.
(Pictured above, Blake Pisarcik has returned to the football field this season after an ACL tear in Week 2 of last year and has become a dangerous weapon for the Rovers’ potent offense/submitted photo)
“It stunk,” Pisarcik said. “It was my sophomore year and it was a big year for me and it didn’t go as planned. It was hard. It was heartbreaking.”
Pisarcik figured his comeback would be long and grueling.
It was indeed grueling. It certainly wasn’t long, however.
That was thanks to an innovative ACL tear surgery that Dr. Matthew Varacallo helped pioneer at Penn Highlands hospital in DuBois.
Varacallo, medical director of orthopedic robotic surgery at the hospital, is on the cutting edge of a surgical technique called “fertilized ACL.”
It dramatically reduces the recovery time by injecting a mixture of stem cells from bone marrow, which is mixed with a bone graft, to stimulate healing. It produces faster and stronger ligament growth.
If successful, it cuts recovery time dramatically.
How dramatically? For Pisarcik, he was back to full activity in less than three months instead of the typical eight-months it takes to heal when undergoing traditional ACL repair surgery.
“Instead of taking my hamstring, they took a third of my quad,” Pisarcik said. “They took bone marrow out of my shin and implanted stem cells into my knee to make the healing process a lot quicker. Originally, a normal ACL tear would be like a six-, eight- or even a 12-month recovery. I got cleared in about two months. I got cleared really, really fast.”
Pisarcik has his surgery in late September, a few weeks after his injury.
By November, he was doing everything he could do before his ACL was torn.
“I’d say in about a month I felt normal again,” Pisarcik said. “I just kept working with Matt (Varacallo). I felt a lot better than what I did before.”
Pisarcik didn’t return for football season, but he was back on the baseball field in the spring — a major victory.
Over the summer, he was at full speed during 7-on-7s and summer workouts for Brockway.
That hastened recovery has shown three games into the season as the Rovers are rolling at 3-0 and Pisarcik has been a big-play difference-maker at wide receiver.
The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Pisarcik has caught 19 passes for 410 yards and four touchdowns.
“He busted his butt as soon as he got the surgery,” said Brockway head football coach Jake Heigel. “He from that point on was back in the weight room and he was immediately a leader with the entire group, pushing the guys.”
Pisarcik said he felt like he had little choice but to work hard to get back.
That was one of the keys to the innovative surgery — intense rehab.
“I went to physical therapy for about four hours every morning, from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m.,” Pisarcik said. “Then I’d go to school and go back to PT after school. I’d go to practices and help out as much as I could. I was always doing something.
“It really wasn’t a decision I made,” he added. “It was kind of a priority. I kind of knew I had to do it if I wanted to get back to where I was.”
Pisarcik is back and he feels better than ever.
The numbers don’t lie.
He was timed at 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash this summer, just eight months after his surgery.
Even Pisarcik is amazed by the results.
“I really didn’t think I was gonna come back that quick,” he said. “I thought it was gonna be a lot later than it was. I thought then it was going to take more time to get back to where I was before. But, I mean, I’m back and I feel like I’m better than I was last year. My body is just a lot better.”
Pisarcik has been an X-factor for Brockway this season. He’s given quarterback Brayden Fox a deep-play threat, which has opened up the running game for senior Jendy Cuello.
Last year, the Rovers went 8-5, reaching the District 9 Class A title game, where they fell in Port Allegany.
Anything less than a return trip — and a win this time — would be a disappointment, Pisarcik said.
“That’s just our mindset,” he said. “I mean, we’re taking to game by game and we’re not overlooking anybody, but it’s our mindset to get back and come out with a win.”
Pisarcik said he also feels blessed to play in an explosive offense with stars and weapons all around him.
Last year with him out, Brockway leaned a little more on the running game and found a gem in Cuello.
With Cuello running hard and Fox, a junior who is in his third year as a starter, carving up secondaries, Brockway is a very difficult team to play against for opposing defenses.
Offensive coordinator Frank Varischetti also keeps the game plans fresh from week to week, devising new and creative ways to get those stars the football.
“Our OC always has something new every week,” Pisarcik said. “Practice is never boring. We don’t know what we’re doing that day so it’s always fun to come in and figure out what we’re getting ourselves into.”
What Pisarcik hopes to keep getting into is the end zone.
That was his only goal heading into the season — just help the team win no matter what that entailed.
“I just wanted to be the best version of myself,” Pisarcik said. “I think I’ve done that.”