When the Bellefonte Red Raiders football team travels to Jersey Shore Friday for their season opener, there will be a little bit of a different feel to the atmosphere.
The Bulldogs will be without senior Caleb Leone, who suffered a serious injury at practice last week and is in critical condition at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville.
According to the Lock Haven Express, Leone, 17, was injured in the last 15 minutes of the second practice of the season. He was transported to Jersey Shore Hospital, then flown to Geisinger.
“It was a helmet-to-helmet hit ... but we’re not blaming anybody. It was a freak accident,” Caleb’s father, Jake Leone told the Express from Caleb’s bedside in Danville, where he and his wife, Danielle, have been keeping vigil since the incident.
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“There’s no prognosis yet. He’s still in a coma,” he said.
While at Geisinger, Jake Leone told the Express that Caleb has undergone brain surgery and various other medical procedures, but there has been no change in his condition.
“We’re just asking for prayers,” he said.
The community has responded with prayers — and more.
A GoFundMe campaign set up Tuesday to help the Leones with medical expenses, travel to Danville, food and lodging exceeded its goal of $5,000 in less than 24 hours.
Jersey Shore fans and teammates also plan to dedicate Friday’s season opener to Caleb.
The Express reports that Caleb’s sister, Aubrey, is organizing a “20 Out,” an homage to Caleb’s jersey number. Aubrey is asking everyone to come out to the game and wear orange shirts with the No. 20 to send a message to Caleb. T-shirts, bracelets and candles with “20 Strong” will also be sold at the game to benefit the family.
In addition, Phil-It Up Drive In restaurant, located at 190 Tomb Ave. in Jersey Shore, is donating 20 percent of its sales from 5-7 p.m. Sunday to the Leone family.
Jake Leone told the Express and Newswatch 16 that he’s grateful for the community support, but was disappointed the school district did not reach out to them personally.
The Jersey Shore Area School District did issue a statement on its Facebook page.
“As many of you are aware, one of our Jersey Shore Bull Dog football team members was injured during practice this past week. Our athletics personnel attended to the athlete’s needs in order to ensure he received help as quickly as possible,” the statement read. “We take great pride in the training and expertise of our coaches and athletics-training staff, who consistently place the well-being and safety of our students first and above all else.”
The district said that the athletics staff held practice that day in accordance with PIAA guidelines and requirements with “safety foremost in their minds” and an athletic trainer on site.
“Our continued thoughts and prayers are with the student, his family, teammates and our community,” the statement continued.
Jersey Shore and Bellefonte play at 7 p.m. Friday at Jersey Shore Area High School. The game was originally slated as a home game for Bellefonte, but got switched due to construction delays at Rogers Stadium.