Referee in stable condition after collapsing at Whitman-Hanson football game

The referee who collapsed at Friday night’s football game between Whitman-Hanson Regional High School and Silver Lake Regional High School was in stable condition Saturday.

Whitman-Hanson Athletic Director Bob Rodgers said he spoke to the referee’s wife Saturday morning and she told him her husband is doing well. Rodgers didn’t share the referee’s name for privacy reasons, but said, “he’s a good man who has dedicated his life to kids as a coach, teacher and referee.”

Immediately after the referee collapsed, Whitman-Hanson sophomore Jack Sweeney ran across the field and got the automated external defibrillator (AED) from the trainer’s cart while captain Ethan Phelps ran and got another AED from the halftime building. Rodgers said drills are done with the teams, so they know what to do in case of an emergency.

“Ultimately, we didn’t need to use the AED, but we're proud of both players,” Rodgers said.

Whitman-Hanson Superintendent Jeffrey Szymaniak said the police detail, emergency medical technicians and nurses in the stands came onto the field to assist the referee.

Minutes before the referee collapsed, an ambulance was called for an injured Silver Lake player.

“It was a scary couple of minutes until emergency medical services arrived from both towns,” Szymaniak said. “Both towns responded very quickly.”

Spectators helped Whitman-Hanson staff clear the path for both ambulances to enter the stadium.

Hanson Fire transported the referee, who was conscious, to the hospital. Whitman Fire cared for the injured Silver Lake player.

“I am so proud and happy to be the superintendent of such a wonderful school district and community,” Szymaniak said.

Whitman-Hanson went on to beat Silver Lake, 29-6.

Rodgers said without referees the games couldn’t be played, but he noted the increasing difficulty of hiring men and women for the position because of the way they’re treated.

“Officials understand a spontaneous reaction to a close play or tough call may happen and most don’t get bothered by that,” Rodgers said. “But when adults want to yell direct and disparaging comments at them from across the field and from the stands that’s when they wonder if it’s worth it."

Rodgers said the next time you want to yell at a referee, remember they're people and not perfect machines.