Arizona high school football player dies two days after hitting head

Nov. 12, 2013 at 12:28 PM
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PHOENIX, Nov. 12 (UPI) -- A football player for a northern Arizona high school died two days after he suffered a serious head injury when he was tackled in a playoff game.

Charles Youvella, a senior at Hopi High School in Keams Canyon, collapsed not long after he hit the back of his head Saturday night in a game against Arizona Lutheran Academy in Phoenix, KPNX-TV reported. Witnesses said he was still conscious and talking when paramedics arrived but was in critical condition when he was admitted to St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix.

Youvella died Monday night.

Lutheran Academy, the top seed in the Division V playoffs, was winning 60-6 when Youvella collapsed in the fourth quarter. He had scored the Hopi Bruins' only touchdown.

Youvella was tackled after catching a forward pass and hit his head as he went down. Witnesses said he appeared to be fine, getting up and directing two more plays but then collapsed.

Wallace Youvella, the player's father, is athletic director at Hopi High and a member of the Arizona Interscholastic Association's executive board.

"Just a great kid -- pound for pound, by far the toughest kid I ever coached. He had the heart of a lion. He was 5-5 and 115 pounds wringing wet, but he played 10 times that size," his coach, Steve Saban, told "Like in life, when you're born, there are no guarantees. It's just real unfortunate. Charles was just a great kid. Always positive. I've never seen someone that small in stature have a heart of a lion. He had no fear."

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