The Friday night of Toad Suck Daze was a busy time at Conway High School.
It it was Senior Night for four Wampus Cat teams in three different sports. The baseball and softball teams were playing their final home games, while across campus at John McConnell Stadium, the boys and girls soccer teams were wrapping up the season against Bryant.
The girls played first then the guys in the soccer matches. Senior Night festivities were scheduled between the games. I was there to watch my nieces play. One is a senior and the other a junior.
Bryant scored early to go up 1-0. Then with just over five minutes left in the half, a Conway player suffered a very serious injury when a Bryant player came in with a slide tackle that upended the Conway girl.
I’m not going to say it was a dirty play, but it was certainly unnecessary. I’ll just leave it at that.
It was immediately obvious that the Conway player was injured. Turned out, she had a badly dislocated ankle. The game was stopped for almost 30 minutes while an ambulance loaded her up and took her to the hospital.
That half-hour gap was filled with a range of emotions throughout the stadium. Initial shock turned briefly to anger, but quickly turned to disbelief, then to grief and sadness.
Several Bryant fans were sitting on the Conway home side, I assume so that their backs were to the sun, as the visitors side faces west into the setting sun. They quietly shuffled over to the other side.
Now, by absolutely no means did the situation in the stands ever get even remotely close to being a problem. But it was awkward and a little separation was a good thing for all.
There were lots of tears, both in the stands and on the field. The injured girl was a senior. She was one of several seniors who had been playing together since they were 10 years old.
When the game finally resumed, you could see the Conway girls playing at a little harder, faster pace. They played well, but eventually became physically and emotionally spent. Bryant won the match, 3-0.
After the game, the seniors gathered on the field with their parents. They were introduced individually as they walked down the 50-yard line. When they called the name of the injured girl, she and her family obviously were not there. That’s when her teammates picked her up one last time.
Hanging on the stadium fence throughout the season were large, very nice banners featuring a photo of each senior. Her classmates took their injured teammate’s banner and walked it across the field as the PA announcer read her name and accomplishments to a standing ovation.
And a few more tears flowed, but now mixed with a few smiles too.