PHS senior ready to get back on football field

Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Von Hagan watches practice from the sidelines. The PHS senior football player is recovering from whiplash – but hasn’t missed a single practice at camp.

The determination of this year's Perryville Pirate Football team can be seen in the faces -- flushed and dripping with sweat in the 103 degree heat -- of every player and coach. But the greatest determination might be found on the sidelines this week.

Von Hagan, a senior, watches his teammates and coaches during camp each evening. Von isn't dressed out for camp, however. He's in a neck brace after a July 17 practice injury that resulted in Von being airlifted to Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital in St. Louis.

"Jeri Cain, who is a police officer and also a team mom, called me that evening and told me that Von had been injured," said Von's mom Marilyn Schmidt. "She said that there was swelling in his neck, the helicopter was landing and that I needed to meet him in St. Louis."

Von had taken a hit in practice, but not an especially hard one. He got up, walked off the field and told a coach that it felt like his chin strap had bruised him. The coach took one look at Von's rapidly-swelling neck and called 911. Air Evac was dispatched to the football field.

As Von was loaded onto the stretcher and put into the helicopter, his teammates knelt and many prayed for his safety and health.

"The flight paramedic, Alisha Moore, called me while they were in the air and told me that Von did have swelling around his neck and that he needed to have CT scans of his neck and spine because he had possibly fractured a vertebrae," Marilyn said.

Moore called Marilyn when the helicopter arrived at the hospital to tell her that Von was doing well.

"We were on Interstate 55 then, and I was just frantic to see him," she said.

At the same time, Head Coach Mike Wojtczuk and assistant coach Kurtis Davis were also on their way to St. Louis.

"All of the coaches were very concerned about Von and his family," Wojtczuk said. "We wanted to be with his family at the hospital and support them in any way we could.

"We ask our athletes to give us all they've got on the field, in practice and during games, and they give it to us. When one of them is injured or needs us in some way, we want to be there for them. An injury like this could have been very serious and we were worried about Von. We're glad he's home."

That care touched Von's mother.

"The coaches all came and waited with us to find out how Von was," Marilyn said. "They stayed till midnight, when we found out that Von was going to be okay and that he could come home. I'm very, very grateful to them for watching over my son and for the care they take to make sure all the football players are safe."

After all the testing, the doctor determined that there were no fractures but that Von had suffered severe whiplash.

For now, Von is sidelined for at least 2 weeks. He's in a neck brace and will see an orthopedic sports specialist in another week.

He hasn't missed a single practice.

"When I took over the program I promised the parents I would care for their child as if he were my own," the coach said. "I always tell our players as far as I am concerned, my son Kota has 60 or 70 older brothers. For this reason I felt it imperative to got to the hospital and wait to make sure Von was alright.

"The Perryville Pirates are not just a football team -- we are a family."

The Perryville Pirates Football team invites its entire extended family -- all past players, alumni, current students and staff -- and the entire community to the home opener on Friday, Aug. 24. The Pirates will host East Prairie with kickoff at 7 pm.

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