Covering High School Sports in America
The community of Fayetteville (N.C.) and Seventy-First High School is still mourning the death of junior Evan Raines, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound junior defensive end who died Saturday after football practice.

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Evan Raines

The cause of death has not yet been released other than cardiac arrest, but as is the case in many preseason football fatalities, heat stroke is suspected even though temperatures were in the 80s, relatively cool for summertime in the region.

Rather than figure out why or how he died, all around the campus and region were simply shocked and saddened, according to reports in the Fayetteville Observer and WNCT television.

The 16-year-old Raines had dreams of playing college and professional football and off the field was heavily involved with church. He played drums and taught Bible lessons, according to his father Rodney Raines.

"Evan Raines was a jewel to me," his father said. "I will forever miss him. I will hold on to his memory till the day that I leave this earth."

According to reports, Evan passed all physical exams in order to play but complained of chest pains and shortness of breath at practice.

"Make sure your child receives a thorough examination — thorough, thorough examination," Rodney Raines said. "We did the well check and had no reason to think there was any problem because he was to me the picture of healthy."

The players from the Seventy-First team decided to practice Monday as a way to honor their fallen friend. The school year hasn't started but grief counselors were on campus.

"They're still really heavy-hearted, but their idea today was to still come out and memorialize him with a game that he loved and enjoyed," Seventy-First athletic director Lee Williams said.

Funeral services for Evan will take place Friday.

Since 2006, more than 20 high school football players have died from exertional heat stroke, according to the University of North Carolina's National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research.

The NFL and USA Football have unveiled a Heads Up program that covers every facet of safety in the game, including heat issues.

Gatorade's Beat the Heat program, endorsed by the NFL and MLS, has flourished over the last nine years and has raised awareness about proper hydration. Research conducted by the Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI) revealed that as many as 70 percent of high school football players showed up for practice inadequately hydrated.

Despite all that, and acclimatization guidelines adopted by state associations and promoted by the Korey Stringer Institute, fatalities on the gridiron appear imminent, especially this time of year.

The Georgia High School Association has been the national leader in strict changes, beginning last summer with regulations on practice time in pads and general acclimatization. A three-year study commissioned by the GHSA found that heat-related deaths among football players tripled nationwide from 1994 to 2009.