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Herr Knows the Agony of Victory : Division II: Irvine cornerback has suffered shoulder, ankle and head injuries during season.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Please pardon Irvine High School cornerback Aaron Herr if he pauses to rest a moment during tonight’s Southern Section Division II championship game at Orange Coast College.

Herr has been playing for 10 weeks with torn ligaments in his right shoulder suffered in a victory over Woodbridge. He has continued to play by wearing a specially designed brace during every practice and game.

Three weeks ago, he tore ligaments in his left ankle during practice but manages to play by taping his ankle as tightly as possible before each game.

Two weeks ago, he suffered a concussion in the second quarter of Irvine’s playoff victory over Ventura and now admits he doesn’t remember anything until he woke up the next morning.

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But playing in pain seems to suit Herr just fine. He intercepted two passes in the 37-18 victory over Ventura, and last week he had a game-saving interception in a 27-17 victory over Pasadena Muir.

Tonight, Irvine (11-2) will play host to South Coast League rival Dana Hills (9-1-3) in the championship game. It marks the completion of Herr’s four-year learning process in the Vaquero football program.

Herr had never played organized football when he enrolled at Irvine as a freshman. His debut was less than spectacular. He played in only one game as a reserve free safety on a team that won only one game.

“I loved the game, but had never played before,” he said. “That year was a learning experience. I found out there’s more to the game than just tackling. I wasn’t aware of the mental approach, the preparation and the organization involved in playing football.”

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This year, Herr also found out how physical the sport can be. He moved from safety to left cornerback, where his aggressive style allowed him to defend the run or pass equally well. It also resulted in a rash of injuries.

Herr suffered his most serious injury only moments before halftime of the second-round game against Ventura. He collided with teammate Chris Esmond while intercepting a pass intended for Ventura’s Elan Walshe.

Walshe pulled Herr’s facemask a split second before Esmond tried to make the interception. Esmond ran into the side of Herr’s head and Herr went blank.

“I kept asking the guys in the huddle where we were on the field,” Herr said. “I didn’t know where to line up.”

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Teammate John Martin immediately sensed that something was wrong and went over the plays with Herr on the sideline before Herr was checked by a trainer. He convinced the trainer that he was all right.

Herr made a second interception late in the third quarter at midfield, and then retired to the sideline for the remainder of the game.

“That was the last thing I remember until I woke up the next morning,” he said. “I woke up the next morning and my neck was real stiff. I couldn’t remember a thing. Now, any time I do something in a game, someone is always asking me, ‘Do you remember that play?’ ”

Herr distinctly remembers Irvine’s first meeting with Dana Hills. Irvine was coming off an emotional 16-13 victory over Mission Viejo, the school’s first football victory over the Diablos.

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“We spent too much time dwelling on the past rather than looking ahead,” he said.

The result was a 27-23 loss to Dana Hills. Herr won’t predict a winner tonight, but he thinks he knows how the game will unfold.

“Neither team is going to run away with it,” he said. “I think this game will go down right to the wire.”


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