KINGSTON (WATE) - The East Tennessee high school football community is reeling after a local player breaks his neck during a Friday night game.
School officials confirm 15-year-old Seth Haynes, a sophomore at Roane County High School in Kingston, broke his neck on the opening play of Kingston's game against Sequoyah Friday night.
Haynes was immediately carted off the field and taken to UT Medical Center, where he remains at this time.
Haynes' coaches and teammates are in disbelief over his injury.
It happened during the opening kickoff, as Haynes ran down the field and made the first tackle of the game.
Roane County High School's Head Football Coach, Brian Pankey, says the hit looked completely normal.
"When I saw him make the tackle, I thought it was just a normal tackle and then he just laid there limp," said Pankey.
He says Seth couldn't get up, but was talking and could respond to commands from team trainers to squeeze their hands.
Trainers quickly determined he was seriously injured.
Doctors at UT quickly confirmed their fears; Haynes' neck was broken.
It's an injury that means he may never again play another down of football.
"The doctors say he's done. He can never play football again," said Pankey. "He's been playing football since he was five years old."
The news is hitting his teammates hard.
"They're just shocked and blown away," said Pankey of his players.
Pankey says Haynes is a beloved member of the Kingston football team.
"While he's out there, he gives 110 percent. Very energetic. Very outgoing. All his teammates like him," said Pankey. "He's a good kid and comes from a good family."
He says the injury has gotten everyone's attention on what's really important.
It's no longer about the points on the scoreboard for this team.
"It definitely puts things in perspective. Football is not very important. It's not important in the scheme of things when you're dealing with a kids life," said Pankey.
While they're devastated over his injury, they're just thankful he's alive.
"A 15 year old kid that could have lost his life playing a game of football," said Pankey. "Just one of those times where everybody is going to have to pull together and be there for Seth and his family."
Pankey says Haynes is scheduled to go into surgery at UT Medical Center late Saturday afternoon, in what doctors have told them will be a nearly three hour long surgery.
Pankey says after the game Friday night, dozens of family members, students and teammates went to UT to see Haynes.
He says while he is still immobile at this point, he was able to talk last night while at the hospital.
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