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Referee noticed something off before Karns City quarterback collapsed at Friday night game against Redbank Valley

Karns City High School Gremlins gather in prayer Friday, Sept. 1, after their quarterback Mason Martin collapsed during the third quarter of a game against Redbank Valley High School. The senior was transported by helicopter to a hospital. Photo courtesy of D9 Sports and EYT Media

The clock read 7:53 in the third quarter of a Friday night, Sept. 1, matchup between the Karns City High School Gremlins and the Redbank Valley Bulldogs, when referee, Mike Vasbinder noticed something off with Karns City’s quarterback.

Vasbinder saw senior Mason Martin stagger.

“I had to talk to him, and when I asked if he was alright, he told me, ‘no,’” Vasbinder said. “So that’s when I knew something was wrong.”

Mason collapsed and was taken from the field at Karns City high school’s Diehl Stadium by ambulance and then transported by helicopter to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh. The incident was reported to dispatch at 8:48 p.m.

“At this time, we are asking that everyone takes a moment to offer their thoughts and prayers that our injured player is OK,” said Karns City superintendent Eric Ritzert.

The game between the Gremlins and the Bulldogs was cut short. Redbank was named the winner with a final score of 35-6.

Realizing that Mason needed attention, Vasbinder whistled the play over before the ball was kicked off.

The stadium went silent as parents, students and spectators watched. On the field, Karns City’s players and coaches all kneeled and began to pray.

Doug Paulsen, who was sitting on the home side of the stadium, said he hadn’t seen the collapse.

“I didn’t even really see it happen, because I was looking towards the other end. When I looked over, he was down,” Paulsen said.

Karns City quarterback Mason Martin collapsed on the field at Friday evening’s game. He’s pictured above earlier at Friday evening’s game.Holly Mead/ Special to the Butler Eagle

As Mason was taken from the field, those in the solemn crowd rose to their feet and applauded.

Brittany Thompson, who was there with her daughter, said the scene was eerily reminiscent of what happened to Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin in a Jan. 2 game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Hamlin had suffered a cardiac arrest.

“We’re not from this school district, but my daughter wanted to come to the game,” Thompson said. “It’s just really scary.”

Vasbinder said the situation prompted a series of procedures and protocols, some of which he had never had to follow in a game before.

“When we saw it got to the point where they were bringing on an ambulance, we talked to Redbank Valley’s coach and Karns City’s coach, who was obviously with his player,” Vasbinder said. “And we just tried to stay back and keep calm, so things didn’t escalate.”

Karns City Ambulance and a STAT MedEvac helicopter responded to the scene.

Mason Martin, quarterback of the Karns City Gremlins, collapsed during Friday night’s game Sept. 1 against Redbank Valley Bulldogs. Holly Mead/Special to the Butler Eagle

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