Dan Reardon has coached football for 21 years, but never had he witnessed a moment so scary as when one of his own had to be carted off the field.
Poudre had already returned a kickoff for a touchdown last week in its 62-21 loss to Overland, so to prevent the Impalas from doing it again, the Trailblazers squibbed the opening kick of the second half, bouncing straight in the hands of junior linebacker Charlie Backurz.
Backurz, who’s on the cusp of crossing over from JV to a full-time varsity player, hadn’t fielded an in-game kickoff since his freshman year, but was primed to seize the moment. When the first Overland defender came his way, Backurz lowered his shoulder to deliver a hit, unfortunately, the one he received was a little harder.
That’s when everything went black.
“It wasn’t intentional, but there was some helmet-on-helmet contact and he just went out,” said Reardon, Poudre’s football coach. “If you see it on film, he kind of just crumbled straight down and as it happened. I could tell there was something, potentially, very serious going on.”
He had only lost consciousness for 15 seconds, Reardon said, but it felt longer, not knowing the magnitude of the injury Backurz suffered. When he awoke, the junior could move his limbs but had stiffness in his neck. After an ambulance ride to the hospital, a CT scan determined the 5-foot-9, 176-pound junior suffered a concussion and sprained neck.
“I don’t really remember what happened. The ball was out there, I got it, and then lights out,” Backurz said. “When I woke up, the lights of the stadium were what I was focusing on. It was overpowering. There were a lot of people there and I could understand what they were saying, but couldn’t do anything about it. Kind of zoned out.”
Relieved to not have any life-threatening injuries, Backurz is eager to get back on the field, even if some of his family members are a little more hesitant. Injuries are just an unfortunately element of the game, he said.
Before he can return to practice, first, he has to be cleared by a doctor.
After any high school athlete suffers a concussion, they must take a baseline test, a computerized neuro-psychological assessment which compares memory, reaction time and other cognitive functions after the head injury to what they were before.
There’s no official timetable for Backurz’s return since safety being the No. 1 priority, but when cleared, expect him to strap on a helmet and shoulder pads at the first opportunity, because not even leaving the field on a stretcher is going to damper his love for football.
“I’m feeling better. Last couple of days I’ve had a little head ache and my neck is a little stiff, but other than that, I’m on the road to recovery,” Backurz said. “We know the risks of football. It’s part of the reason we love it.
“I was talking to my coaches and they said they want me back, but they want it to be the right way so I don’t mess myself up more. I’m OK with that.”
Follow reporter Matt L. Stephens at twitter.com/mattstephens and facebook.com/stephensreporting