It was the kind of moment that can take the air out of a stadium.
At least three different players collided at the same time, violently, with bodies twisting as they rolled up onto the turf.
These kinds of plays happen dozens of times over the course of a high school football game, but when one of the players remains motionless on the field and coaches cry out “Get the paramedics!” or “Get his parents!” it can reveal the dangerous nature of this game.
This wasn’t a case of Sierra’s Nick Lucchetti writhing in agony while his hopes of helping lead his team to football glory were dashed by a traumatic knee injury – although that would be tragic in its own right.
This appeared much worse.
He could move his hands and his feet, but emergency medical experts were sure to maintain the alignment of the cervical spine as they prepared to haul him off of the field.
But then an unexpected guest joined the circle of medical professionals, parents and Sierra High coaches.
Roy Sanders, a junior at Rosemont High, had walked across the field so that he could take a knee next to Lucchetti and offer a few words of encouragement.
“I told him that he was going to get better and he was going to go on to play the greatest game in the world, which is football,” said Sanders , who was in on the hit that sent the Sierra skill player to the turf. “I was in on that hit, so I just thought I should come over and talk to him.”
It was a world-class showing of sportsmanship that you’re not likely to find in a high school football playoff game when one team, in this case Sierra, was firmly in control despite the back-and-forth nature of the game’s later quarters.
And it would have been just as easy for Sanders to instead focus on staying loose, or the brutal hit that Lucchetti put on him earlier in the game. After taking a kickoff in the first half, Lucchetti put together a 44-yard return that included a steamroll of Sanders as he bowled forward to get as many extra yards as possible.
He wasn’t done there either. Lucchetti also threw a 23-yard pass as part of Sierra’s offensive machine that rolled with impunity most of the time and slightly sputtered at others.
Head coach Jeff Harbison went to be with Lucchetti and his family following the game. While an update on his condition wasn’t available by press time, this much was clear Friday night: The senior will have a lot of people praying for him, the Sierra faithful that want one of its own to end up back on the field by the end of the year as well as the Rosemont players who had earned his respect.
In that sea of chaos that was developing, seeing a lone opponent taking a knee to offer just a few words shows that among the warrior spirit that’s so prevalent among the players, drilled into them by coaches, there’s still room for taking the time to step back and appreciate the magnitude of a situation.
It was move far beyond the years of a junior in high school.
Let’s just hope that his attitude is contagious as more are more young men could stand to have that kind of outlook.