Raul Gerhardus was in the back of the ambulance, and all he wanted was to watch the penalty kick.
Gerhardus, a Maize South junior, suffered a seizure during Tuesday’s Maize South’s high school soccer game against league foe Andover Central. He was fouled in the penalty box. His head rocked back as it hit the turf, and he went into convulsions. He lost consciousness and control of his extremities.
After about three minutes, he came back to, but he still could not feel his arms or legs. He could speak, though, so he asked what happened and why everyone was surrounding him. When he was loaded into the ambulance, he begged to stay.
Later in the second half, Maize South coach Rey Ramirez received a phone call. Gerhardus was on the other end.
“It’s moments like that, that really bring you back to the essentials of life,” Ramirez said. “Seeing his mother cry, seeing his father and family and friends — seeing all of that emotion really shows you how important so many other things are. For a moment of two, we all forgot about soccer because we were worried about a human being.”
Maize South and Andover Central played one of the biggest games of the 2019 Kansas high school season Tuesday night. Gerhardus just wanted to be involved; he couldn’t after five minutes.
Ramirez said Gerhardus isn’t believed to have suffered any permanent damage. A CAT scan Wednesday would reveal more.
Then the teams played a soccer game.
Andover Central beat Maize South 2-1. Leo Wurth scored the game-winner in the second half. It made both teams better prepared for the postseason, but after the game, Ramirez’s main message to his team wasn’t about soccer.
“Soccer, as life will deal you some serious blows,” Ramirez said. “But life will hit you with harder things than a teammate missing out on a few soccer games. Life is much tougher than that. We want to prepare you to be overcoming, persevering young men that will succeed in life.”
Andover Central scored the game’s final two goals. When Jadyn Vossen equalized in the first half, he turned around to his teammates and put his hands up, not in celebration, more in respect.
Andover Central coach Steven Huskey said the Wichita area soccer community is a tight-knit one. During the game, Vossen and fellow Andover Central forward Leyton Harper hugged Maize South’s Landon Eskridge.
Before the game, Andover Central coach Steven Huskey said he saw players from both players joking around, being kids.
“Our guys had tears in their eyes and their guys, too, and rightfully so,” Huskey said. “It’s not a rivalry, but we always know it’s going to be a good game.”
Tuesday night, Maize South soccer’s Twitter account tweeted about Gerhardus’ seizure and condition. Teams from across the city poured out support. At 11:35 p.m., Gerhardus’ father tweeted an update on his son’s status.
“Raul was released from (the) hospital and is at home safely tonight thanks to all our prayers,” he wrote. “He has a headache and a concussion, but he’s expected to recover soon. We can’t thank you enough. God bless you all!”
Gerhardus is one of the best players in the Wichita area. He will be in consideration for All-Metro honors as he was last year. He has helped Maize South to 13 wins out of 15 games this season, coming off a Class 5A runner-up finish.
“Soccer matters, there is a place for it,” Ramirez said. “Sport matters. Competition matters. But what is most important is those life skills and what we can learn about ourselves through sport. Tonight was one of those great examples. The guys on both sides got to witness something very tragic and very scary. It’s about learning to overcome and to fight on.”