It's the worst fear of any high school coach.
Emotions are running high and the crowd is cheering itself hoarse, when play suddenly stops as participants rush to an athlete on the ground and in distress.
"You get so close to them. You're like a father to the kid," said Calumet football coach Ivan Zimmer. "It tears your heart out."
Zimmer has been coaching football for 30 years, 16 at Calumet, and he's had his share of scary moments on the playing field. But what happened to senior Noah Fowler in the second half of Friday night's 52-12 sectional loss to No. 1 Andrean left him shaken.
Contacted at home Monday night, Noah Fowler said he had suffered a broken tibia and dislocated ankle. He is scheduled to have surgery Thursday and will return to school next week.
"I was real upset. It was my first big injury," Fowler said. "Seeing all my brothers upset got to me. The ankle was looking pretty gross. It had popped out of place and at the hospital, they put me under and popped it back in place."
One Andrean player told me some players near Fowler became nauseous when they saw the extent of his injury. No coach or player can ever prepare themselves for such a moment.
"He's a good, young kid who was improving every year in school. He had matured a lot," Zimmer said.
Fowler couldn't cheer his team on, not from the back of an ambulance.
"There's a million thoughts going through my mind," he said, fearing he might miss the wrestling season.
Fowler hopes to return by sectional time, going 31-10 at 182 pounds last season and being a regional finalist.
"I've gotten several calls and best wishes on Facebook from football players and wrestlers from Hobart, Lake Station and Griffith," Fowler said. "When I got hurt, an Andrean coach held my hand and said they were all praying for me."
Few area kids are as athletic or versatile as Noah Fowler, who played linebacker, defensive end, running back and was on Calumet's punt and kick return teams.
He did it all, and did it very well.
"The hardest part was his younger brothers seeing their older brother laying there," Zimmer said. "We had to talk to them, get them focused on the game, so they wouldn't get injured."
Nick Fowler, a junior, is an outside linebacker/running back/kicker and special teams' member.
Kobe Fowler, a sophomore, plays defensive end/middle linebacker/fullback and special teams.
Art Fowler, their father, is a Calumet assistant.
"It's always hard to separate the two — coach and father," Zimmer said.
The lesson learned here is injuries and football go together like pizza and cheese, a fact that can't be argued.
Risks are high as we're seeing particularly in the NFL, almost on a daily basis.
Noah Fowler will fully recover eventually; maybe even earn a scholarship to play at the next level.
"I've had my ankle or leg in casts seven or eight times," Zimmer said, trying to add some perspective.
"Three or four times playing at Bishop Noll, once or twice at Nebraska, once or twice in faculty games (coaching) at Andrean."
Zimmer has had only one drawback as a result.
"I can't sneak up on anybody because my ligaments would click," he said, jokingly.