Ridgewood’s Luke Krljic has promising season cut short by injury

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Bad luck can result in a turnover or even a loss in football, but it’s also capable of ending a player’s season.

Ridgewood’s Luke Krljic knows that all too well.

Krljic broke his tibia last year when his left leg was caught underneath a pile of tacklers against Riverside-Brookfield.

His run of bad luck continued on Sept. 12 against Fenton. Krljic’s left foot stuck in the turf as he was tackled, he said, and then he heard a click in his foot.

Krljic hobbled off the field, and he learned the severity of the injury a week later. He had torn the Lisfranc ligament in his foot. His high school football career was likely over.

“It sucked a lot,” Krljic said. “I put in a lot of time in the summer for this [season]. I worked real hard for it, but I know that it didn’t go unnoticed. I had fun doing it while it lasted. And I’m going to do whatever I can now to help my team.”

Ridgewood coach Chris Zack said it was hard for him to see Krljic’s senior season end prematurely.

“It’s kind of heartbreaking,” Zack said. “Sometimes … injuries affect even a head coach. For him, knowing how hard he worked and what a good kid he is, it made it that much tougher.”

Like several Ridgewood players, Krljic worked on improving his speed near the end of the 2013-14 school year. Krljic was part of a group — it included current seniors Chris Serna, Tyler Fanelli, Ryan Cabot and Tyler Gil Ramos — that arrived at Ridgewood at 5:30 or 6 a.m. multiple times a week to work out on the school’s speed treadmills and VertiMax.

Krljic said he saw his time in the 40-yard dash drop from a 4.7 to a 4.5 as a result, and that speed showed on the football field.

Krljic moved from wide receiver to running back during Ridgewood’s 47-0 victory over Crossroads in the second week of the season. He rushed for 121 yards and two touchdowns on just seven carries against the Crusaders. Krljic seemed to be playing at a faster speed than everybody else on the field.

He was a revelation that night.

“We thought he could be a guy who could change the dynamics of the game with the way he could break a play, the way he could turn a three-yard gain into a 30-yard gain,” Zack said. “He just had the ability to do that.”

Krljic’s speed and ability were evident against Fenton the following week. He rushed for 42 yards on three carries — including a 34-yard gain — before he was lost for the season.

Krljic has maintained a positive attitude since the Fenton game, both he and Zack said. Krljic has experience coping with injuries, having suffered four significant injuries to his left leg. He also broke his femur when he was 2 years old and he tore his ACL when he was in middle school.

Krljic said he’s now focused on his recovery — he had surgery on Wednesday — and is trying to do what he can to help the team. He’s been on the sideline to cheer on the Rebels (3-4, 2-1). He also does small things, like help Ridgewood junior quarterback Chris Jacobsen warm up and snap the ball during practice, to remain part of the team.

“I would give anything to be back out there playing with my team,” Krljic said.

Zack said Krljic’s injury served as a teachable moment.

“We tell the kids … you never know when your season or your high school career is going to come to an end,” said Zack, adding, “They kind of look at Luke as motivation for them to finish off the year strong.”

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