BUTLER TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- A community is rallying behind a high school football player badly injured in a game.
Jaden Leiby was badly hurt in North Schuylkill High School's game on Friday night.
Throughout this season, Jaden Leiby was one of the top football players in our area on one of the top teams. On Friday, he showed why rushing for more than 100 yards and three touchdowns in the biggest game of the season. But then, the injury happened, and now the entire community is rallying around its beloved star.
It was a lively atmosphere on Friday night at Spartan Stadium near Ashland as North Schuylkill hosted Pottsville with the Schuylkill League Division I football championship on the line.
"We're in that week of preparation. We're so focused on winning the game, and something like this happens. It really makes you realize that wins and losses, it's not the most important part of a team," said Joe Tomtishen, assistant coach and guidance counselor.
Everything was going well for North Schuylkill, thanks to quarterback Jaden Leiby. The senior rushed for three touchdowns in the first half, as North Schuylkill built a large lead
But those cheers were quickly silenced in the third quarter when Leiby suffered a serious neck injury while making a tackle on defense.
"It was bittersweet," said North Schuylkill Superintendent Robert Ackell. "The team was happy they won the Schuylkill League championship, but that really wasn't on their mind. Their mind was focused on Jaden and his return."
According to school district officials, Leiby suffered a broken neck on the play and was flown to Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest, where he had surgery on Saturday.
Over the weekend, people flooded social media with messages and the hashtag #prayersforsix -- the six standing for Leiby's number.
"The love and support not just in our building, but in Schuylkill County and eastern Pennsylvania has been unbelievable. That's what's going to get us through these difficult times," Tomtishen said.
Starting this Friday, North Schuylkill will be selling t-shirts and wristbands, with 100 percent of the profits going to the Leiby family.
"This does affect more than just our football team. This affects our whole student body and our whole community," Ackell added.
T-shirts and wristbands will be for sale in the main office of both schools as well as the football game on Friday night. North Schuylkill will play Pine Grove in a District 11 Class 3a semifinal. Expect the Spartans to have the number 6 decals on their helmets.