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It was the third quarter of a 45-7 game between Iowa City Regina and Highland and things were going as routine as a 45-7 game tends to go.
Due to the deficit there was a running clock and Regina had resorted to simply running the ball. A Regina run up the middle created a pile that left Highland’s Dan Burton injured and flat on his back.
Highland coach Scott Morel wasn’t sure exactly what happened to Burton but said he saw him come down the line to try and tackle the running back and then in between starting the tackle and finishing in the pile he either hit his head on the ground or a foot kicked him accidentally.
The crowd grew quieter as both Highland and Regina’s athletic trainers rushed out onto the field to tend to Burton. From there they kept Burton’s head and neck stable and called for an ambulance.
“He was talking and had feeling in his lower and upper extremities and (the ambulance) is a precautionary thing,” Highland coach Scott Morel said.
Around 20-25 minutes after the injury, Burton was taken away in the ambulance and the head referee held up the ball to signify the end of the game. At that point both the Iowa City Regina and Highland teams came together and prayed for Burton before breaking out of a huddle together.
Morel said he tipped his hat to Regina Coach Marv Cook for agreeing to end the game early after the injury. After the two teams joined together Morel took his aside and talked to them again about what had happened.
“I told them ‘Just keep him in your prayers and be there for each other because this is our family, and we need to stick together,” Morel said.
On Monday Morel said Burton went home near midnight and there doesn’t seem to be any structural damage to Burton’s neck.
He said this is the scary side of football you never hope to see and that it hurts extra for it to happen to a player that works as hard as Burton.
“He’s our center, he’s our outside end and a fantastic kid. He’s just a wonderful kid,” Morel said.
Burton also sustained a head injury during their opener against North Mahaska and Morel said he had done everything right to get himself healthy and back to the game. Now though, he said at some point you have to evaluate the player’s future and potential for injury. As of Monday he said Morel hadn’t spoken with Burton or his parents about the future of him playing but said that’s something they’ll map out as time passes.
“I think sometimes you have to save a player from themselves and look at his future. It’s the scary side of football, you don’t wish this for anybody,” Morel said.