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New York prep football team cancels season following in-game death of Damon Janes

Ben Rohrbach
Prep Rally

Following the death of junior Damon Janes resulting from a helmet-to-helmet hit during Game 2, the Westfield/Brocton (Brocton, N.Y.) football team from near Buffalo has canceled the rest of its season.

The Westfield Academy and Central School Board of Education unanimously approved superintendent David Davison's recommendation to cancel the five remaining games on the team's schedule, the district announced in a statement on Monday (h/t Buffalo News):

The pending motion was shared with players from both teams at a team meeting on Monday. During the meeting, players shared creative and positive ways to honor Damon Janes through our athletic programs and school communities for the remainder of the year and into the future. This will be a student driven effort and allow Damon’s friends and teammates to continue the grieving process off of the playing field.

Both Brocton and Westfield continue to offer support to students and players through district counseling departments. For parents and family members in need of assistance, grief counseling is available through several agencies and local churches.

Section VI has been notified of District’s decision to not complete the season.

Janes, who was 16, had reportedly walked to the sidelines following a hit against Portville (N.Y.) High on September 13, but the junior running back and defensive back was soon carted to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead three days later.

According to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research at the University of North Carolina, Janes' death was the second such tragedy in less than a month. College Park (Ga.) Creekside High star DeAntre "Tre Tre" Turman died after suffering a broken neck during a scrimmage in August. Janes' death came after a helmet-to-helmet hit, which remain a dangerous problem in all levels of football, including the NFL.

"I would like to commend our coaches, football players and their families for their continued strength and conviction during what has been one of the worse times we have ever experienced," school board president Jeffrey Greabell announced, per The Observer. "Our hearts are truly broken and our thoughts and prayers continue to be directed to Damon's family, classmates, his friends and his teammates. This is a time that is sacred and should be protected. Grief, while shared, is unique to each of us.

"We are not giving up Damon's legacy. We are taking time to heal. Our players need time to grieve and have time to be together away from the lights and games for a while."

While the school board voted unanimously to cancel the season, not everyone agreed with the district's decision.

"This tragedy of Damon Janes was felt by our whole community as we all know," local resident Barry Underwood said during the meeting's public comments section. "Having two sons that played football from midget football up to high school, I think about these kids that did the same thing. If (the players) did tell you they were willing to cancel their season they're probably not telling the truth. I think canceling the season for the Westfield varsity football is a big mistake. I think Damon Janes, although I did not know him personally, he loved football. It's probably the last thing he wants to see."

Yet, Westfield/Brocton assistant football coach Scott Lashbrook -- a minister who officiated Janes' funeral -- backed the decision, telling Erie TV News, "I think the board, superintendent and principals have the absolute best interest at their heart for these children, and I want to support that in everything we do and be there for the kids any way we can, too."

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