Hopi High School Running Back Dies After Being Injured in Game
An Arizona high school teen died with his family by his side on Monday after he suffered a serious brain injury while playing football.
Charles Youvella, a running back on Hopi High School’s football team, caught a pass during the Bruins game against Arizona Lutheran Academy and was taken down in what officials said was a normal tackle. But on the way down, Charles hit the back of his head hard.
Witnesses said that he got right back up on his feet and lined up for two more plays before collapsing on the field, according to USA Today. He was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in critical condition.
"Pound for pound, by far the toughest kid I ever coached," Steve Saban told 12 News in Phoenix. "He had the heart of a lion. He was 5-5 and 115 pounds ringing wet. But he played 10 times that size."
Youvella was the second-leading rusher on the Hopi team that had its best regular-season record (9-1).
According to The Daily News, the family declined to comment as they prepared for the funeral on Friday. Youvella's father, Wallace Youvella Jr., is the school's athletic director.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald tweeted a picture of Youvella and asked people to pray for the high schoolers family, friends and teammates.
Chuck Schmidt, Associate Executive Director of the Arizona Interscholastic Association, said the organization would start an account where people could donate funds to help the family defray medical bills. Youvella's father is also a member of the AIA.
According to ESPN, a community memorial is planned for Wednesday evening at the high school’s auditorium, which is located on the Hopi reservation in Keams Canyon, Arizona.
"We had just a beautiful season, best record in school history," Saban said to ESPN. "Down there in the state playoffs, it was just a great experience for the kids. And then the terrible tragedy. It was just like a bad dream."
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