CRYSTAL CITY, Mo. -- Less than 12 hours after being released from Perryville hospital, Keith Winkler coached his Perryville Pirates against the Herculaneum Blackcats on Saturday night.
Winkler, 43, checked himself in Friday after experiencing stomachaches that he described as "something like appendicitis." Now he said he's been diagnosed with a rare condition that he can't pronounce.
"Basically, there's a problem with my colon," he said.
The players on the varsity squad were surprised when their always-reliable coach did not show up to their scheduled practice Friday.
"They told us what was going on, and we were all worried and all praying for him," senior guard Jack Meyer said. "But then we did our normal practice, just like we would have done if he was there."
The coach expected that spending the night at the hospital would cause him to miss the game against Herculaneum, which originally was scheduled for Friday night. But storms over the last few days overwhelmed the drainage system at the Blackcats' newly constructed football field, postponing the game.
It was decided that the contest instead would be held Saturday at Crystal City's football facility.
Although he was moving slowly with a noticeable limp, Winkler insisted he was fine and that all was well. He was ordered by his doctors to limit his movement for a few weeks, so he spent the game sitting in the press box. He issued instructions to his players through assistant coaches who took his place on the sideline.
The Pirates (0-7) were pillaged by Herculaneum (4-3), whose offense dominated the game and carried the Blackcats to a 42-0 victory. The lone highlights of the game for Perryville were a pair of interceptions by Jared Hotop.
Still, when Winkler delivered a postgame talk about the importance of looking forward instead of living in the past, the whirlwind events of the past couple of days seemed to resonate with his players.
"We owe it to coach to turn this season right now, and try to get better," quarterback Garrett Flentge said.
"These boys are all working hard," Winkler said. "But we need to get the ball in their end zone and keep the ball out of ours."
The Pirates will open district play Friday when they host Kennett.