Tragedy strikes during WO-Stark game

Published 12:51 am Saturday, September 18, 2010

WEST ORANGE — West Orange-Stark senior and starting quarterback Reggie Garrett died Friday night after collapsing at Dan R. Hooks Stadium in  West Orange. There was not a dry eye in the stadium after the Mustangs’ 27-7 win 

over Jasper. The score did not matter. The statistics did not matter. The Mustangs’ family had lost a young man many were calling “a great human being.”

    Garrett collapsed shortly after throwing a 13-yard touchdown to Mark Roberts  early in the second quarter. He died at Memorial Baptist-Orange at about 9:30 p.m., after reaching the hospital an hour earlier. Mustangs’ head coach Dan Hooks said Garrett did not do a lot of celebrating after the touchdown and had not shown signs of any  health problems this year.

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“This is the hardest night I will ever have,” Hooks said. “You can’t even grasp how big this tragedy is. It’s horrible. It is going to take  a while for the shock to wear off. We have to regroup but damn it’s a  shame. This is a tragedy beyond a tragedy.” Hooks said it looked to him as if Garrett had a seizure.

    Garrett was off to a tremendous start to his senior year. He had thrown for 434 yards and five touchdowns heading into the game  against Jasper. He passed for 45 yards Friday with two touchdowns.

    Hooks is in his 29th year at WO-S and said he has never come close to  having something like this happen.

    “We found out at the start of the third quarter,” Hooks said.

    The game was not stopped even after the rumors started to swirl. 

    Garrett had passed away after being taken from the field on a stretcher. “We really didn’t know if it was true,” Hooks said. “It’s horrible.

    I  don’t think he ever showed any response after he fell. He was such a  great kid. You see how these players are reacting. It is going to be  hard for them.”

    Players held each other. Every one of them was crying. Players screamed out after the team huddle.

    “He was my best friend,” a player called out.

    Others were asking how they could step on the field knowing Garrett died on the same field.

    “You must understand what life means to you,” WO-S assistant coach Mark Foreman told the players after the game. “Life can be taken at anytime. The key is to live your life to the fullest every day.

     “You don’t know when you last day will be. Reggie Garrett was a great human being. Now reach out and take strength from each other.”

    Travon Blanchard led the Mustangs in an emotional Lord’s Prayer with the players, coaches and everyone else around.

    “This is the hardest night in Mustangs’ history,” WO-S assistant Cornell Thompson said. “You can’t lose a guy like that. This game is not important. Our squad is real close and he was the obvious leader.”

    Thompson said there was not much the WO-S coaching staff could do to console the Mustangs right away.

    “They aren’t hearing you right now,” Thompson said. “You can tell by the way both teams played late that the game didn’t matter. We  both folded our tents for separate reasons. We just wanted it over.”

    Funeral arrangements will be announced for Garrett in the coming days.