By GERRY deSIMAS, JR.
WINSTED, Oct. 5 – The high school football game between Gilbert/Northwestern and the Hartford-based co-op team of Sports Medicine Science Academy/University High was ended with 10:07 left in the fourth quarter after a young boy tried to commit suicide on The Gilbert School campus Friday night.
The game was stopped and Van Why Field was cleared of players, officials and spectators because police said that the Life Star helicopter from Hartford Hospital was going to land on the field.
Life Star didn’t land on the field but landed in the parking lot of the old Winsted Memorial Hospital, which overlooks Van Why Field, and transferred the boy to Hartford Hospital. Police had no additional information to share on the boy’s condition at 10 p.m., about 30 minutes after the game had concluded.
The head coaches of both teams were in agreement that the game should be ended after a delay of about 30 minutes. Gilbert/Northwestern was leading at the time, 35-0.
A police spokesman confirmed that the boy tried to commit suicide. Patrick Cooke, athletic director at The Gilbert School, said the incident occurred at the bottom of the hill near the entrance to the school. Cooke didn’t know the boy’s name nor what school he attends. But he said several players on the Gilbert team did know the boy.
“It was a mutual decision by both head coaches and athletic directors,” Gilbert/Northwestern head football coach Scott Salius said. “To continue wouldn’t have served any purpose. There are bigger things in life than football. Some (of the Gilbert players) were emotionally distressed so to put them on the field wouldn’t have been appropriate.”
Graham Martin, head coach of SMSA/University, gathered his players near midfield once the decision had been made to end the game. The Gilbert squad and the game officials joined the Tigerhawks and Martin led the group in a prayer for the injured boy.
“There are team members from Gilbert who are friends with the young man. This is just the right thing to do,” Martin said.
Cooke said Van Why Field has served as backup landing location for Life Star. The helicopter has landed at the field on a few occasions as part of demonstrations but hasn’t landed at the field for an actual emergency in the 10 years he has been working at Gilbert, Cooke said.