High School Sports

Wallace County football player Luke Schemm dies after collapsing in Tuesday playoff game

Luke Schemm, Wallace County High senior, died after collapsing during the Wildcats’ 8-man football playoff game against Otis-Bison on Tuesday night.
Luke Schemm, Wallace County High senior, died after collapsing during the Wildcats’ 8-man football playoff game against Otis-Bison on Tuesday night. Courtesy of KSportsImages

Wallace County High senior Luke Schemm died Wednesday after collapsing during the Wildcats’ 8-man football playoff game against Otis-Bison on Tuesday night.

According to a Facebook post from his father, David Schemm, Luke Schemm “suffered trauma to the brain, causing it to swell (and) shut off blood flow to the brain.”

Hospital spokeswoman Nicole Williams said that Luke Schemm was “kept on life support so family and friends can pay their respects.” She later confirmed that life support was withdrawn Wednesday afternoon and the teen was pronounced dead.

On Wednesday evening David Schemm updated his Facebook page: “This afternoon Lisa Coston Schemm, Clay Schemm, and I had to do the hardest thing any parent or brother will have to do, we told Luke Schemm that we loved him and had the doctor shut off the life support. He was surrounded by family an friends. Our hearts are shattered.”

The loss shook Sharon Springs, a town of 788 in far western Kansas. Wallace County High, which is in Sharon Springs, has 56 students.

“Oh, this hurts,” said Larry O’Connor, Wallace County athletic director and basketball coach. “We’ve had people up at the school and with the kids. Our whole community was there last night. It’s going to affect the community big time because we’re so tight.

“Everybody knew Luke. He had time for everybody. … He was a friend to everybody. The little kids looked up to him. He spent time with them.”

A witness said Schemm, 17, collapsed before his team kicked off following a Wallace County touchdown. He was airlifted to a Denver hospital.

Brian McVay, Wallace County principal and superintendent, said that he didn’t know why Schemm collapsed.

“The team was gathered on the sidelines getting ready to go for the kick,” McVay said. “Before they even left the sideline, he just collapsed.”

It is the 11th reported death in high school football in the U.S., according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research. It is the third in Kansas in 17 years, according to Gary Musselman, the Kansas State High School Activities Association executive director.

Musselman said that game officials said they didn’t see Schemm sustain any head or neck contact during the game.

Wallace County’s 22 football players and three coaches, including head coach Jeff Hennick, took a bus Wednesday to Denver to be with the Schemm family.

Schemm was a three-sport athlete and was named to The Eagle’s All-Class 1A-II first team in basketball after helping lead Wallace County to the title last March.

“He was a better person,” O’Connor said before pausing to cry. “He was a better person and friend than he ever was an athlete.

“He was probably one of the best athletes I ever coached.”

Schemm, a fullback and linebacker, started on varsity as a freshman for football and basketball. Wallace County football, which is 10-0, lost in the 2014 8-Man II semifinals. He also helped lead the Wildcats to a second-place finish in basketball in 2014. Schemm finished third in the 1A high jump in May.

“He just wasn’t the kid who scored all the touchdowns, made the tackles, was high jumping 6-foot-11, dunking the basketball, and all this stuff,” O’Connor said. “He really didn’t care too much about that.

“It was more about his team and what he called his family.”

Schemm, who has an older brother, Clay, started playing for O’Connor in sixth grade. O’Connor also coaches the junior high team.

“I knew him back in third grade. And in fifth grade, I knew back then that we were going to have something special. He was just so competitive,” O’Connor said. “The senior class pushed each other, but he was the alpha dog, and he knew it.

“He didn’t take it for granted at all. Everyone knew who the leader was, who the captain was. If we needed big plays, we went to Luke. If we needed somebody to be talked to, we went to Luke.”

Wallace County will play its quarterfinal playoff game on Saturday at Ingalls. David Schemm said the game should be played.

“Luke gave his all on the field,” he said. “He lived his life with a passion, and that’s what we want them to do.”

When football ends, basketball will begin. The first day of practice is Nov. 16.

“I can’t imagine what it will be like,” O’Connor said. “I don’t want to think about that. But I can guarantee you that I know what he wanted in the end. We’re going to work every day in practice to make sure it happens.”

To win a 1A-II basketball title in March?

“That’s exactly what I’m talking about,” O’Connor said. “He’s going to be sorely missed, but we’re going to do everything he wanted done.”

Contributing: Associated Press

Reach Joanna Chadwick at 316-268-6270 or jchadwick@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @joannachadwick.

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