Homecoming Postponed as Community Mourns

The decal design, crafted and donated by football equipment manufacturer Riddell, that local high school football teams will be wearing in honor of Warren Hills Quarterback Evan Murray, who passed away last week after a game-related injury.

By Andy Loigu

In the aftermath of young quarterback Evan Murray’s death, the football game at Warren Hills High School, with Voorhees, originally scheduled for Friday, has been postponed until Saturday, Oct. 3, at 7 p.m.

The Homecoming celebration which had been scheduled has been postponed until further notice.

A moment of silence will be observed this weekend at all football games involving teams in the Mid-State 38 Conference, of which Warren Hills is a member.

Helmet decals will be worn by all players in the conference, to show that Murray is in their thoughts. The decals display a blue lightning bolt behind the number 18 Murray wore while playing on the gridiron for the Blue Streaks.

In addition to being the Blue Streaks’ quarterback, Murray also was a standout pitcher in baseball, a hustling basketball player, and an honor student. He was a key contributor to a state American Legion baseball championship won by Warren Hills in the summer of 2014.

In this instantaneous media age, the news of Murray’s death quickly spread around the globe, with national news organizations in America and the United Kingdom giving it widespread coverage. Many local residents learned of the death while watching television networks that normally do not cover stories from Warren County.

The news sent shockwaves around the football-minded community. Many tributes were posted on social media as friends learned the sad news early Saturday morning.

A memorial made up of flowers in the shape of a heart was quickly set up at the entrance to the football stadium on Saturday, as the community gathered to mourn the young player’s death. Trained and certified counselors were on hand to help grieving students on Saturday morning, and Warren Hills was a somber and subdued place as classes resumed on Monday.

Other football team members, normally bitter rivals, shared their condolences for the Murray family and the Warren Hills community through postings on Twitter and Facebook, as well as at Faith Lutheran Church in Washington Wednesday at the viewing.  Many arrived in their uniforms.

Murray died after being injured in a home game against Summit on Sept. 25, from a laceration of an abnormally enlarged spleen that was more susceptible to injury, according to Morris County Medical Examiner Dr. Ronald Suarez. Murray was taken to Morristown Medical Center, where he passed away.

“The loss of someone so young and so suddenly is tragic and we stand together with the Warren Hills community during this time of grief,” a statement by Summit Superintendent June Chang said.

At the time, players and onlookers had no idea the injury would turn out to be fatal. Sadly, it is rather common to see players shaken up and taken away in an ambulance during football games. Murray collapsed on the sideline, after coming off the field under his own power, according to witnesses.

Other players involved in the game could not pinpoint any single hit that caused Murray’s death. It is a sport of collisions and the players know they are taking a risk by participating.

An online fundraiser to assist the Murray family received pledges totaling nearly $20,000 in the first day. A scholarship fund at Warren Hills is also being set up in Evan Murray’s name.

“There are a lot of things I’m going to remember about Evan, mostly his leadership and the young gentleman that he was,” said Warren Hills baseball coach Mike Quinto on a videotaped interview for NJ Advance Media. “And also how much all the kids loved him.”

Murray is the third high school player to die this year from football injuries. There have been 77 injury-related deaths in American high school football since 1995, according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research.

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