CLEAR FORK - At the time, it made sense.

After suffering a shoulder injury, Ethan Blackburn choose to walk away from football after his freshman season, opting to dedicate himself to basketball and baseball.

By watching football from afar, or the stands, Blackburn came to a stark realization.

He loves football. That, and the obvious reasons.

"Really, my friends talked me into it," Blackburn said. "I missed getting my head beat off. It's fun. I love football. It's my favorite sport. I missed playing football with my friends."

Blackburn came into his own during his sophomore season of basketball, averaging double figures, and he had a solid baseball season.

"Honestly, basketball is probably my least favorite, but I love to play it," the 6-2 junior said. "I love baseball, too. It's probably my second favorite sport."

He will join Will Cook, Parker Rolfe and Spencer Keeney in what will be a young receiver corps this fall.

Only Cook has any varsity receptions, those coming last fall.

But coach Herbie Halsey has faith in Blackburn, a former middle school and freshman quarterback.

"First of all, Ethan is an outstanding athlete," Halsey said. "He is a kid who can do a lot of different things and we have faith in his ability to catch the football. These guys we have at receiver are all capable. They just don't have a lot of experience doing it on Friday nights."

He will get plenty of chances in the Westside offense.

That much was apparent during a scrimmage Aug. 16 against Shady Spring. The junior wide receiver and quarterback Blake Goode appeared to have developed a good chemistry.

He had a few catches on offense and even intercepted a pass on the other side and was the bright spot from the first scrimmage.

He knows there is still work to do.

"I still think I was a little bit rusty, I think I could do a little bit more," Blackburn said. "I need to work on running my routes. They are still a little bit rusty. I guess I'm playing alright, but it can be better."

He is looking forward to playing alongside Goode, a sophomore who is playing his former position.

"I'd say quarterback is his best position for sure," Blackburn said of Goode, who was the Renegades leading rusher last fall at running back. "He's got a great arm on him. When he need to get up the field he can run. He's got speed, he's quick. He doesn't care to take a hit. I love that about him."

Blackburn also had tempered, maybe a reachable goal even for this team in his return to the gridiron.

"At least 4-6, 5-5," Blackburn said. "That might not satisfy everyone, but 4-6, 5-5 is better than our record last year."

Westside opens the season on Friday night against Liberty at 7:30 p.m.

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