Pair of Deer Lakes players injured in loss to Ford City
Friday was a challenging night for the Deer Lakes football team and its fans.
The Lancers lost two players to potentially serious injuries in a 48-13 loss to Ford City in a Class AA Allegheny Conference game at Deer Lakes.
Senior linebacker Dylan Dempsey and junior linebacker Mike McGraw suffered apparent head injuries and were flown by helicopter to separate Pittsburgh hospitals.
Dempsey was taken to Allegheny General Hospital immediately after the game, and McGraw was flown to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh about an hour later.
As of late Friday night, Dempsey's condition was still being evaluated at AGH, according to a nursing supervisor.
Children's Hospital declined to release any information on McGraw's condition.
Fans were instructed to remain inside the stadium as the first helicopter arrived for Dempsey. Once the school's parking lot had been cleared for some time — aside from police and medical personnel — the second flight arrived and picked up McGraw.
“This is the definition of a game where the score wouldn't have mattered, win, loss or draw tonight,” Deer Lakes coach Todd Hazlett said. “To lose two boys like that who you spend so much time with, they become like your son. It breaks my heart. You play this game, you love it … It completely weighs on you. The rest doesn't matter right now.”
Before facing Deer Lakes (3-5, 1-5), Ford City (3-5, 2-5) had been eliminated from playoff contention.
Sabers coach John Bartolovic's words were clear on the mentality that his team would be taking to the field in next week's season finale.
“We told the kids that we're going to coach hard, we're going to play hard, we're going to work hard and finish on a high note,” he said. “It's their memories, it's their Senior Night. We're disappointed of course, in the back of our heads, but it is what it is and you've got to come play.”
Senior running back Devan Willyard was a stalwart for Ford City on offense and special teams. He carried the ball 18 times for 211 yards and scored two rushing touchdowns.
Willyard also returned a kickoff 77 yards for a touchdown immediately after Deer Lakes made it a two-score game late in the third quarter.
Ford City senior running back Ben Young also eclipsed the century mark, carrying the ball 17 times for 115 yards and three touchdowns.
Deer Lakes senior cornerback Zack Burke, who returned an interception 62 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter, suffered a leg injury and was taken off the field by stretcher. Burke is believed to have suffered a sprain.
Hazlett was proud of the effort his players put forth under the circumstances.
“The one thing I've always been pleased with from my team is that there's never been any quit in them,” he said.
Stephen Catanese is a freelance writer.