It was a somber day across the Phoenix School District. It was the first day back to class following the death of high school football player Ridge Barden. He died following an accident during a game in Homer on Friday night. Our Iris St. Meran spoke with the head varsity football coach and the superintendent about Barden.
PHOENIX, N.Y. -- The flag outside of John C. Birdlebough High School in Phoenix flies at half staff. It's in memory of Ridge Barden, 16, a junior.
"He's just a great kid. He's one of those kids that doesn't draw attention to himself. I'm just devastated that we have lost a student," said Phoenix Superintendent Judy Belfield.
Barden was a defensive lineman on the school's varsity football team. Friday, during the third quarter in a game against Homer, he had a helmet collision on the field and collapsed. He later died at the hospital.
Head varsity football coach Jeff Charles said, "It was maybe a 12 inch collision span. That's all I could see from reviewing the film. I watched it numerous times. Paused it and try to analyze what happened and it's becoming a little more frustrating to me as a coach, because I actually do not see where this collision is happening and something so severe and tragic could happen."
Especially when the day started on a high note. It was Ridge's first time as a starter.
Charles said, "Right before the game, I walked in and just kind of yelled to the players, they were getting a little rambunctious, 'Come on guys, let's get focused.' Then Ridge looked over to me and said coach, 'I'm focused, I'm starting today.'"
The football season ended last week, but the Firebirds would have played a crossover game this Friday. The district decided not to participate. Instead, his teammates will do some activities together that they planned.
In the meantime, the tributes are coming in. Staff can be seen wearing ribbons with his uniform #70 on it. The students signed a blanket which will be given to his family. And other districts, including Homer, are showing their support for the teen who touched many.
"We love you here in Phoenix. You will be missed," said Charles.
Calling hours for the 16-year-old are being held Wednesday from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Foster Funeral Home in Fulton. Funeral services are being held Thursday at 10 a.m. at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Fulton.