GLENVIEW — New Trier running back Kevin Mulhern’s breakout game last month ended with the junior out, broken.
In the fourth quarter of the 41-39 win over Waukegan on Sept. 27, Mulhern was carrying the ball for the 22nd time when he was tackled with his leg at an awkward angle. He suffered what later would be diagnosed as a pulled groin.
Mulhern, who finished with 123 rushing yards and two touchdowns, was helped off the field and eventually taken to the hospital.
It’s a scene that has been repeated all too often for the 2013 Trevians (3-4 overall, 1-2 CSL South), who must win their final two games — at home against Niles West on Friday and at Evanston on Oct. 25 — to become playoff eligible and have a chance to continue a playoff streak that stands at 10 years.
New Trier already lost senior offensive lineman Mike Foy for the season and fellow senior lineman Rijad Pekmez hasn’t played since suffering a nasty knee injury in the opening game. Starting quarterback Frank Nicholas, also a senior, has been out injured for much of the campaign.
Mulhern’s story, however, appears to have a happier ending.
After missing the 42-17 loss to Maine South on Oct. 4, the 6-foot, 165-pounder was back in the lineup Friday against Glenbrook South.
Even though the Trevians fell 42-14, Mulhern appeared to have regained his earlier explosiveness, running for a 74-yard, first-quarter touchdown that gave his team a 14-7 lead.
“I felt better than I did at the start of the season because I had a whole week of rest,” Mulhern said. “Also, you just have to be grateful for your time on the field. We have a lot of guys injured, so you have to enjoy the time you are on the field.”
Against Waukegan, he had a few nice runs late in the first quarter, and coaches stuck with him for much of the night.
“I hadn’t seen myself carrying that many times in that game,” Mulhern said. “Once I did (get a few opportunities), I didn’t want to stop because we were getting yards.”
That night, the Trevians’ makeshift line was clearing big holes, and Mulhern was bursting though at pacee, a skill coaches said he had improved over the course of the season.
Mulhern said his play as a midfielder on New Trier’s lacrosse team helped him on the football field.
“I think lacrosse helps with field vision,” Mulhern said. “Also, the speed of the game correlates. Both sports are fast and high intensity.”
With Mulhern back, the Trevians have their running-back tandem in place. Teams will have to prepare for Mulhern and the more physical Jordan Garrett, a senior.
“(Mulhern) gives us a different element,” senior quarterback Matthew McCaffrey said. “Garrett is more of our bruiser inside the tackles. But Kevin gives us a lot of speed.”