JEFFERSON CITY - Senior year is the last chance for most high school athletes to get a shot at glory.
After losing to Webb City 49-14 in last year's Class 4 State Championship, the Helias Crusaders knew they had a good chance to return to the dome with 31 seniors returning. Two of those seniors, Garrett Buschjost and Tryston Bax knew that this year's team would be special.
"We knew we would have a better team this year, so yeah there's no way I could have missed it this year," Bax said.
"We didn't win state last year, so I definitely think that's something we wanted to come back and get," Buschjost said.
The two also share a love for baseball and hunting, something they both enjoy doing away from the gridiron, but that all was put on hold one night.
While driving to a friends house, Garrett, Tryston, and their friend Haydon Lee were traveling along Upper Bottom Road in Saint Thomas. Garrett was driving on the right side of the road and started to veer off the road, brushing gravel out onto the road. After multiple attempts to hit the breaks, the boys endured the ride of their lives.
"We kind of did a Dukes of Hazzard sort of thing off the guard rail," Lee said. "After we hit the ground, we started to roll, and it was a wild ride until we landed on all fours again and regained our composure."
"We were probably one centimeter away from not walking for the rest of our lives," Bax said.
"It's a miracle nothing worse happened," Lee said.
When the boys got out of the car, they said the adrenaline that was going through them was enough to make them not realize the damage that had been done. They were able to make phone calls to all their parents before the paramedics arrived on the scene.
"When we first received the phone call, we were finishing up watching the ballgame, I could tell by Charles face that something was wrong," Pam Bax, Tryston's mom, said, "and as a parent you never want to receive a phone call saying your child has been in an accident, but when he said Tryston was the one that called, I felt a little better; however, when we arrived at the hospital, it was definitely an eye opening experience."
Haydon suffered some cuts and bruises, but Garrett and Tryston broke their backs and necks. Tryston also broke his sternum and hand. They both broke the same vertebrae, their C-6, which is about a quarter of an inch thick, and had it been more severe, both of them may not be around today.
"One-way or the other, paraplegic, or like the doctor said if it had gone the other way, massive heart attack," Charles Bax, Tryston's dad said. "That was probably the longest 24 hours of our life."
Both were instructed to be in a neck brace and Tryston was instructed to be in a back brace as well 24/7, making taking care of him comparable to taking care of a child.
"I mean yeah, obviously he's not a small kid," Mrs. Bax said, "So taking care of him was no easy task, it was something we gratefully did. I mean it could've been we may have not had a chance to go to the hospital."
The doctors said the only thing both should do is really just relax and watch TV, which sounds nice but not for two three sport athletes who are used to being active.
"I mean there were some nights where we would take him [Garrett] to Dick's Sporting Goods so he could walk around because you know he wasn't used to just sitting around," Jackie Buschjost, Garrett's mom said.
Three months into their recovery, they received their first piece of good news, which propelled them to strive for full recovery.
"The entire way down to the doctor's office, Tryston's asking, ‘Will I get to play sports?'" Mrs. Bax said. "I didn't know what to say because I knew there was a chance he wouldn't play sports again. And the doctor goes ‘I see no reason why you can't play baseball.'"
Both cleared to play baseball in the summer, but they wanted more.
"But immediately after," Mrs. Bax said, "he said, ‘Well what about football?' I think Charles and I both held our breath because we knew baseball was a possibility but we weren't quite sure he would ever be able to play football again."
"And well, he said yeah you can start lifting and playing football again," Tryston said, "and it all just lit up from there."
"There was a gleam in his eye, the smile was broader, he was sitting a little taller, and from then on we knew his recovery would be complete" Mrs. Bax said.
But Garrett got the same exact news, something that brought up a familiar characteristic known to him.
"When we got the news he was all smiles," Mark Buschjost said, "He smiles all the time, but this was smile that you couldn't wipe off his face."
And both were smiling because they knew they had been blessed with a second chance.
"We could've not been playing sports anymore after that night, and I'm just taking everything day by day and not looking too far into the future and living your life how you want it to be," Garrett said.