UPDATE: Story Continues Below
Piercen Evans is recovering and will be released today. No fractures, no damage, just sore. Power of prayer!— Rough Riders Football (@RoughFootball) September 26, 2015
Roosevelt beat Rapid City Stevens 40-9 Friday night at Howard Wood Field, but that didn’t much matter to anyone who was there.
With 3:47 to go, Roosevelt linebacker Piercen Evans made a tackle at midfield and went down. And he didn’t get up. The officials stopped play, and trainers came on the field. Then coach Kim Nelson. Then game operations officials. Then Evans’ parents.
They called for a stretcher. Then the on-site ATV. Then the ambulance.
The scene on the Rider sideline was unsettling. Players openly wept. Coaches whispered into their headsets. The entire stadium was silent.
But Evans never lost consciousness. And after an approximate half-hour delay, he started wiggling his toes and fingers. He could feel the hands on his prone body. The feeling was coming back. Evans was loaded onto the back of the ambulance, and the Howard Wood Field public address announcer asked the crowd to show Evans its support. Finally, the silence broke, as the few hundred fans that were still around at 10:45 erupted in applause.
Nelson gathered his players, teary-eyed and sniffling, along the sideline.
“Men,” he said confidently, “He’s going to be OK. He’s got feeling in his hands and feet. He’s going to be OK. I promise. Let’s finish the game. Do what (Evans) would do. Go out there and finish the game like he would.”
As it turned out, the Riders didn’t have to do that. Rapid City Stevens coach Scott Hagen offered to allow the game to be called, and Nelson accepted the offer.
Moments later, players from both teams gathered in a tight circle at midfield, where Raiders senior Desmond Donalson led a prayer.
“Watch over this great athlete,” Donalson said. “And be with his family.”
The players then walked in a daze to their respective locker rooms, the game having ended on a somber note, but with optimism that a promising young linebacker will return to the field.
“He’s gonna be OK,” Nelson said later in a relieved tone. “He’s got all his feeling back. He’s moving his feet, he’s moving his arms, he’s talking, he was never out cold. He just was numb. He could feel people touching his hands but not his legs for awhile, gradually it just came back.”
Nelson said the doctor on site called the injury a stinger – a nerve injury that can cause temporary paralysis and in severe cases be spinal related. By the time Evans was on the ambulance, he had all of his feeling back.
“The doctor said he’s coming back faster than most, so we’re optimistic,” Nelson said. “I said do you think there’s any injury and he said I don’t think so. Tonight, I’m optimistic. We’ll take all the precautions going forward but the doctor was really in a positive mood about it.”
Obviously the game’s result was secondary, but Roosevelt did win behind Jett Thune and Tyson Jahn. Thune threw for 121 yards and a touchdown and ran for 104 yards and another score. Jahn ran for 81 yards and three touchdowns. Evans was one of the leaders of the Rider defensive effort, making eight tackles. Nelson did say Evans tackled with his head down on the fateful play.
Roosevelt’s season continues on a path towards postseason glory, but it’s obvious the Riders will have to regroup. The entire team was rattled at game’s end.
“Yeah, they really were,” Nelson said. “They should be. It’s a tough thing to deal with. Stevens showed a lot of class in what they did. I’m very appreciate of that.”
RHS – Tyler Van Voorst 22 pass from Jett Thune (Isaiah Bowar kick)
RHS – Tyson Jahn 1 run (Bowar kick)
RHS – Bowar 34 FG
RHS – Jahn 5 run (Bowar kick)
RHS – Jahn 22 run (Bowar kick)
RHS – Thune 57 run (Bowar kick)
RCS – Brendan Christiansen 3 pass from Brandon Soucy (Noah Diamond kick)
RHS – Safety
RCS – Safety