By Kaylee Lindenmuth | email@example.com
FOUNTAIN SPRINGS - When the clock reached zero, and it became official North Schuylkill was bound for the District XI 3A title game, the announcer came over the loudspeaker and said, "I think it's safe to say, that one was for you, Jaden."
That, it truly was.
North Schuylkill Senior QB #6 Jaden Leiby suffered a severe neck injury in last week's Schuylkill League title game, after which he was transported to Ashland's Memorial Field to an awaiting MedEvac helicopter. From there, he was taken to Lehigh Valley Hospital - Cedar Crest in Lehigh County, where he underwent surgery and currently resides. It's said he has "a long road ahead of him," regarding recovery.
In the week since, support has overwhelmed the North Schuylkill district and the Leiby family, from every end of the county and beyond. Shenandoah's downtown football helmet was repainted like North Schuylkill's, though with a #6, to honor him. Thousands of Prayers for 6 shirts were sold, many of which were worn at Friday's game.
Prior to the game, the Spartan band performed their usual field show with a twist -- it was performed in a stationary #6 formation. For the coin toss, the captains brought Leiby's blue #6 jersey to midfield.
"The support is overwhelming," said head coach Wally Hall. "It's great to see so many people have contacted us and reached out and support Jaden, are there for him, and give him all the strength he needs."
Regarding the game, he said "Our team played well. We played for Jaden, especially."
"It impacts a lot. He's on our mind, and we're just playing for 6," Hall added.
The game began as a defensive dogfight, with the first score coming early in the second quarter, a 33-yard fumble recovery by senior #40 Tyler Eldson.
With about six minutes remaining in the quarter, Pine Grove's #3 Josh Leininger ran 84 yards for a score, and a successful PAT gave the Cardinals a one point advantage, 7-6. Not long after, North Schuylkill answered with a 52-yard pass by sophomore QB #5 Jake Hall to senior WR #13 Josh Stankavage. The two point conversion failed, and the Spartans led 12-7.
Pine Grove would answer with an interception, run back 55 yards for the score by Leninger. 14-12, the Cardinals led.
Hall said adjustments were made at halftime to the offense, which he said paid off.
A trio of rushing touchdowns by Jake Hall and sophomore RB #29 Josh Chowansky gave NS a 35-14 advantage by the end of the third quarter. The final score came to be 42-20 in North Schuylkill's favor.
North Schuylkill (10-1) will move on to face the Blue Raiders of Tamaqua (9-2) in the District XI 3A title game next week in Lehighton, Carbon County.