The shocked East-West Stadium crowd fell silent.
The cowbells that were banged when Fairmont Senior scored on each of its first four drives sat still. The cheerleaders, who had chanted “Austin! Norman!” after each of the quarterback’s four touchdown passes, took a knee. And the Polar Bear players that had beamed with confidence after what was essentially a perfect first half put their heads down as quarterback Austin Norman lay writhing in pain on the turf.
The senior signal caller was in the middle of what was arguably his best game of the season, completing 12 of 15 passes for 253 yards and four touchdowns. He also rushed for a fifth touchdown on the ground.
But it was the 12th completion which proved costliest.
Norman dropped back and faced immediate pressure. He rolled out and, like a magician, escaped the pressure to deliver a crisp strike to receiver Nick Davisson.
But then came the penalty flag signaling a late hit, a low blow.
And then: silence.
The coaches rushed to the field as Norman held up his mangled leg, a gruesome football injury in which Norman’s foot twisted completely around.
“I was out blocking, and as soon as I turned around I saw him with his ankle twisted,” said Neil Scherich, who caught two touchdown passes and ran for a third. “I just took a knee. I couldn’t believe it at first.”
An ambulance backed onto the field, with rain pounding down onto its roof. Norman was carefully placed on a stretched, but just before he was whisked away in the ambulance and rushed to the hospital, he asked that his team come over.
“He said, ‘Coach, I want the team over here with me,’” Fairmont Senior coach J.L. Abbot said. “That’s a tough boy. He didn’t cry. He did not cry.”
Norman’s injury is just another blow to a team which has faced more than its fair share. Earlier in the season, the Polar Bears lost their leading rusher in Noah Harmon when the running back went down with a knee injury.
A week before his injury, Harmon scored three touchdowns, rushed for nearly 150 yards and eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing plateau. All this on the day he turned 18-years-old.
Afterward he talked about plans to get to 2,000 yards and lead the conference in rushing. But on Senior Night the following week, he went down.
“It's just disheartening because Noah and Austin are two of the hardest-working kids since I came back in the spring,” Abbott said. “It really stinks.”
These injuries to two of Fairmont Senior’s best offensive weapons at these moments were almost surreal. As tight end Luke Hrapchak put it, “It’s not fair. But life isn’t fair.”
“It hurts,” he continued. “(Norman) has been hurt every year. Bad things happen to good people.”
After the game I asked Abbott about the way his team jumped out to a fast start and about the statement the Polar Bears made by defeating a playoff team is such decisive fashion.
The coach politely entertained my questions, but he just couldn’t continue. Losing his quarterback loomed larger than any win on the scoreboard.
“It doesn’t matter,” he finally said. “We lost Austin.”
As big as the loss is, the Polar Bears still have games to play. With heavy hearts, they’ll take on Bridgeport looking for revenge from a 37-14 loss on week five.
Probably the best thing for the team to do now is to remember what they told Norman as he was loaded into the ambulance.
“We told him we were going to finish the game for him and keep going for him. We knew he’d want us to,” Scherich said. “It’s going to be hard without him, but we have to.”
Email Mike DeFabo at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @MikeDeFaboTWV.
The shocked East-West Stadium crowd fell silent.
COLUMN: Extend summer practices without over-extending athletes
Last week we told you about a proposal that would extend the summer practice period for West Virginia high schools.
It’s already cleared the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission Board of Control. Now it’s up to the West Virginia Board of Education to decide if the current three-week window should be expanded by five weeks.
Bussie looks forward to WNBA
On Tuesday, the weather turned cold, the wind blew and amongst the raindrops that fell a few snowflakes fluttered quietly to Earth.
It was as if it was a celebration of Asya Bussie being drafted on Monday night by the Minnesota Lynx, champions of the WNBA, with the third selection of the second round, the 15th overall pick of the draft.
HERTZEL COLUMN: Jackie Robinson’s impact extends beyond baseball
It is Jackie Robinson Day as I sit here writing this today, and I feel as though I am doing it in a world gone mad.
Every player in Major League Baseball wore No. 42 on Tuesday in honor of Jackie Robinson, the man who took racism’s best shot and integrated the game that was known then as the National Pastime even though it was as white a Ku Klux Klan robe.
Pirates finish off suspended game, fall in nightcap
Mike Leake doubled and hit a two-run homer Tuesday night, ending Gerrit Cole’s winning streak and leading the Cincinnati Reds to a 7-5 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates that completed two days full of homers and delays.
WVU’s Harlee named Big 12 Scholar-Athlete
The Big 12 Conference announced its Scholar-Athlete of the Year recipients for the 2014 winter sport season, and West Virginia University senior Jess Harlee earns the honor for women’s basketball.
Harlee was selected as the award winner based on a vote of each respective sport’s head coaching group, with coaches not permitted to vote for their own student-athletes.
East can’t overcome No. 7 Lincoln, falls, 4-0
Thunder clouds weren’t the only thing looming over the East Fairmont (6-6) softball team Monday when the Lady Bees hosed No. 7 Lincoln. Joining the ominous clouds was a sense of urgency for energy that never showed up as Lincoln was able to shut out East Fairmont, 4-0.
Gyorko, Padres agree to extension
Jedd Gyorko, who hasn’t hit much of anything with a .178 start on this season, hit the jackpot on Monday, signing a six-year contract extension with the San Diego Padres for $35 million with a one-year club option at $13 million.
HERTZEL COLUMN- Spring game showed defense has improved
From Dana Holgorsen’s viewpoint, which was standing right behind the offense, West Virginia’s Gold-Blue Spring Game on Saturday was a rousing success for it showed very little of what the Mountaineers will be in this coming season, probably not even showcasing the man who will direct the offense in the quarterback position.
WVU signs guard; Adrian arrested for DUI
There was something good and something bad for West Virginia men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins this past weekend as Kansas junior college player Tarik Phillip committed to play for the Mountaineers but rising sophomore Nathan Adrian was charged with Under 21 DUI after he was stopped at 1:20 a.m. Sunday for an expired registration sticker.
FURFARI COLUMN- Most plays good, some not so good in Gold-Blue scrimmage
There appeared to be a fine mixture of plays, most good with some not so good, in last Saturday’s West Virginia University’s Gold-Blue football scrimmage.
- More Sports Headlines
- COLUMN: Extend summer practices without over-extending athletes