Jed Zelie only got a brief, three-minute run out in Wednesday’s game against Mountain Valley Conference front-runner Hall-Dale, but the senior’s significance to the Mt. Abram boys soccer team can’t be measured by any sort of statistical analysis.

That Zelie is even on the pitch at all is motivation enough.

“They’re really excited to have him on board, part of the team, his company,” Mt. Abram coach Darren Allen said. “He’s back with his friends, back where he should be, and it feels like it did before. It’s great to see.”

Zelie missed his entire sophomore and junior seasons after being diagnosed with lymphoma. Round of chemotherapy running through last spring had robbed the lanky striker of, at minimum, any chance to play sports.

He’s been back this season, says he feels good — and scored his first goal in an early-season win over Lisbon.

“That felt pretty good. I enjoyed it,” Zelie said. “I was hopeful I could play again — whenever, as soon as possible. I tried to play indoor soccer (last winter), but I just couldn’t do it. I always wanted to play, I just didn’t know when I’d be able to.”

He returned to the baseball team last season, and that’s helped him realize he’d be back playing soccer this fall.

“That’s when I decided I’d go fully back into it,” Zelie said. “I would have played either way, but I just might have been, ‘show up for moral support.’ But baseball was when I could at least try and make a difference on the team.”

While Zelie hasn’t necessarily served big minutes for the Roadrunners against some of the league’s heavyweights, his impact on the team is noticeable.

Allen said the squad never felt ‘right’ without Zelie involved, even though he’d try and be around his teammates whenever his health allowed while he battled cancer.

“There was a void with the team,” Allen said. “He came to some games, but to not have him around it was like something was missing. It’s not missing this year. He’s there. He’s vocal. He has that sly personality he has with all these funny one-liners, and contributing on the field, too, which is a really cool thing to see.”

And Zelie is glad to be back, obviously.

“I love this team. I wouldn’t play for any other team, even if I could,” he said. “I consider them like a family to me, and I love playing with them and being part of it.”

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