COACH: Let's go! Let's go! Let's go! Let's go! Let's go!
NARRATOR: The summer of 2010 was one of the hottest on record in Arkansas.
SHILOH COACH: You want to win, or you want to coast through the season? Right now, you're coasting! You got to run 40 yards! Run 40 yards!
NARRATOR: Despite the heat, high school football teams across the state were practicing, gearing up for the season.
JOSH FLOYD, Shiloh Christian Head Coach: Keep your eyes up here, guys. Got to be able to focus when we're tired. Got to be able to think when we're tired.
NARRATOR: At 3:30 PM on Friday the 13th of August, the heat index in Little Rock was 112 degrees. Will James, a 16-year-old 250-pound lineman for Pulaski Academy, began to falter.
TODD ROSS, Pulaski Academy Athletic Trainer: The team was doing up-downs, and Will starts to stagger. And we ran from here over to here, and we caught him about right in here.
NARRATOR: It was heat stroke. Will was rushed to the ICU at Arkansas Children's Hospital.
MICHELE MOSS, M.D., Arkansas Children's Hospital: When he arrived to us, he was comatose and on the ventilator. Initially, his kidneys were doing OK, but over the first 48 hours, they deteriorated and he went into renal failure. His blood pressure was really low. It was in the 40s. His temperature was very high. He was obviously very critically ill.
PATTI JAMES, Will James's Mother: The waiting room was full of people there for Will, teammates, parents, coaches. There were media people roaming around because not only had Will collapsed from heat stroke, two days earlier, another child had, as well.
NARRATOR: The other boy was also a high school football player, from a small town outside of Little Rock. His name was Tyler Davenport. When he arrived at the hospital, his core body temperature was 108 degrees.
PATTI JAMES: Their stories were so similar. They were the same age, same height, the same— you know, kind of the same build. They played the same types of positions.
Dr. MICHELLE MOSS: They both presented with very high fever. Both had been playing football. Both had been doing practice. Both had collapsed. Football players are supposed to be so healthy and athletic, and to see them so critically ill was really hard for everyone.
[www.pbs.org: Twitter #frontline]
NARRATOR: At Arkansas Children's that weekend, there were a total of four high school boys, all in serious condition with football-related injuries.
DOUGLAS CASA, Ph.D., Korey Stringer Institute, UConn: Probably at least two thirds to three quarters of the deaths in sport at high schools in America are related to football. The seriousness and intensity of high school football in America has just grown by leaps and bounds in the last five, ten years.
GREGG EASTERBROOK, Columnist, ESPN.com: There have always been injuries in high school football, but they're on the rise. The ramping up of pressure on high school kids, the intensity of high school play, the increase in size, strength, and speed. High school football has always been important, but in the last 10 to 20 years, we've seen it become amped up. And it's a real concern.
NARRATOR: Elite high school football teams compete at a level that didn't exist just a few years ago.
ANNOUNCER: You're watching the Under Armour High School All America Football Game!
NARRATOR: The game has grown from a local passion to a national phenomenon.
ANNOUNCER: Welcome inside Tropicana Field!
DALLAS JACKSON, Senior Analyst, Rivals.com: This is on NBC. This is on ESPN. These are on Fox Sports. These are events that are getting major national exposure.
ANNOUNCER: We've had some great players already—
DALLAS JACKSON: It's just an insane amount of attention being paid to the sport.
ANNOUNCER: Let's go down to Lowell Galidno for the first of our eight verbal commitments. He's standing by with Xavier Dickson.
DALLAS JACKSON: A lot of these kids nowadays are doing major press conferences where they're deciding what college they're going to go to.
XAVIER DICKSON: Alabama.
ANNOUNCER: There you go!
DALLAS JACKSON: These 16 and 17-year-old kids who have to meet the demands of a rabid fan base.
NARRATOR: At summer camps and tournaments, top football players and teams are scrutinized, evaluated and ranked by an army of college scouts and national media.
DALLAS JACKSON: You seen anybody that you like out here?
NARRATOR: Dallas Jackson is a senior analyst for Rivals.com, a sports recruiting news site.
DALLAS JACKSON: Yeah, C.J. Azumea? He's the guy who could play wide receiver or cornerback.
With the increased exposure that a lot these places are getting from the Internet, from television, there's more pressure. It's just like running a college program now, where if you're not successful, the coach is going to be fired.
Cornerback from Griffin is pretty good.
And to be a successful high school football team at this point, its not just come in in August, work out for a month, play the season, go home. A lot of these programs are just— are football factories.
NARRATOR: It takes a certain kind of team to succeed in the new landscape of high school football, and the Shiloh Christian Saints are one of them. Shiloh is a small private high school in Springdale, Arkansas, with a student body of less than 300. Several years ago, few outside of Arkansas knew who Shiloh was. But that's changed.
Pastor RONNIE FLOYD: What's happened here the last five years is just phenomenal. We came out for the first time ever being the number one team ranked in the state of Arkansas. We were nationally ranked and pretty well by everyone.
NARRATOR: The rise of Shiloh's football program has been largely the design of Ronnie Floyd. Floyd is the father of the team's head coach and pastor of Arkansas's biggest megachurch, which owns and operates Shiloh Christian.
Pastor RONNIE FLOYD: I want us to bow together and prepare our hearts for the preaching of the word—
About the mid-1990s, we decided that we really wanted to try to become a national football program. And with that, everything began to advance.
So we pray tomorrow that you'll help us do the very best we can—
How do you explain what's happened here? I mean, you've got this little football program that has emerged to a national stage. The only way I can explain it is the favor of God. That's it.
NARRATOR: But it takes more than divine intervention to build an elite football program. It takes money and commitment. Shiloh's coaches start the boys working out with weights as soon as the football season is over, and the team trains 12 months a year.
WALT WILLIAMS, Sports Promoter: If you're in a great high school program, you will spend more time working in high school than you will in college. A lot of people don't understand the way college works. In a full seven-day week, you have 20 hours to complete all football-related activities under NCAA rules. There's not a great high school program in America that does anywhere near 20 hours. They're considerably over that.
NARRATOR: Shiloh has six full-time coaches on staff for only 40 players, along with specialized private coaches—
RANDY EDWARDS, Martial Arts Trainer: There we go. Nice. Felt that all the way through. Now, stay relaxed.
NARRATOR: —to work on speed, strength and agility.
RANDY EDWARDS: Shiloh Christian is where they are for a reason.
There we go. Good. Much better. Good breath that time also.
They go to the extra length. They go, "What's it going to take to make our players faster, stronger, better?"
Cross hook. There you go! Nice job. Nice job. Ready switch kick.
If you want to go the next level, you've got to find the extras. Do you not have the strength? Go get the strength coach. Do you not have the flexibility? Go get the flexibility coach. What do you need?
NARRATOR: Shiloh declined to tell FRONTLINE how much it spends on its football program, but by 2006, the investment it had made began to pay off. And the school's reputation lured some of the region's best athletes, players like number 53, Sam Harvill, who lives on a farm in Missouri, 75 miles from Shiloh. His parents rent an apartment in Arkansas so Sam can be eligible to play for the Saints.
And in 2008, Shiloh was able to attract what it needed most to break through to the next level, a true superstar.
ANNOUNCER: Kiehl Frazier now, he's looking to throw. He's in some trouble now! He escapes. He escapes a second time! Look at—
NARRATOR: Kiehl Frazier is ranked one of the top five high school quarterbacks in the country. He's a 6-foot, 3-inch running and passing threat, with a strong arm and a sprinter's speed.
JIMMY HARRIS, Shiloh Christian Asst. Coach: He is going to be a great football player. He may win the Heisman one day his own self. I had some 9th grade students that I teach. They come in there and they were, like, "Oh, man, Kiehl Frazier signed my shirt!"
NARRATOR: There was buzz about Kiehl Frazier long before he ever got to high school, when he played in the Pee Wee leagues as a 10-year-old in rural Arkansas. Recognizing Kiehl's potential, his parents decided to move the family to Springdale and enrolled him in Shiloh.
ROBIN BEACH, Kiehl's Stepfather: After Kiehl's sophomore season, he got his first scholarship offer. I'd never even heard of a kid get an offer, a college scholarship, as a sophomore before.
NARRATOR: The college offers streamed in. By the summer of his senior year, Kiehl was being recruited by more schools than any high school athlete in Arkansas history.
KIEHL FRAZIER: It's pretty cool to get the letters. I mean, like, my first one from Miami and, like, Notre Dame— those were, like— they're my favorite just because they were probably the top schools.
ROBIN BEACH: This means you're a real recruit. When the head coach sends you a letter and gives you his cell phone number — the head coach — and says, "Call me," that's as far as they can go in football to say "We want you."
WALT WILLIAMS, Sports Promoter: Kiehl has a very well planned-out future for himself. He has a real opportunity. He's smart, and he has a million-dollar smile.
NARRATOR: Walt Williams is a local sports promoter who Kiehl's family hired to help advance their son's college prospects.
WALT WILLIAMS: Just do it again. I'm going to watch over your shoulder.
It's much like marketing a product, is all it really is. You know, we've talked about making sure that he just does things that give it— all the people all the right reasons to like him.
[www.pbs.org: Video: Marketing Kiehl Frazier]
SPORTS REPORTER: Where do you think you're the strongest as a player? What things make you a great quarterback?
KIEHL FRAZIER: Just really the team around me. I mean, we have great players. I just have to get them out the ball and—
WALT WILLIAMS: People were saying, you know, "Let him be a kid. Let him have fun." The same kids that are being kids right now will be making $35,000 at an entry-level job when they're 24 years old. Kiehl will make more than that in one day if he signs with the NFL.
NARRATOR: For other seniors on Shiloh's team, dreams of playing in the NFL are less realistic. Shiloh running back Garrett Harper has his own ambitions this year, getting a scholarship to play football in college.
GARRETT HARPER: It'd be a great experience just to play college football. I think if I can play like I— you know, like I can, then I would think for sure someone would take a chance on me. But you know, it's up to the coaches, so—
CRAIG HARPER: Let's go, Shiloh! Let's go, Garrett!
NARRATOR: Garrett's father, Craig, the COO of a Fortune 500 company, could afford to send Garrett to college without a scholarship.
CRAIG HARPER: I'd love to see him get one just as a sort of public acknowledgement of his hard work and the talent he has and the effort that he's put into it.
NARRATOR: Over the summer, Craig hired a private track coach to help Garrett improve his speed. With a scholarship on the line, this season is Garrett's last chance to prove himself. At 5-foot-10, he is one of Shiloh's smaller players, with a fierce style of play.
ANNOUNCER: Garrett Harper gets the ball around the left side, and there goes Garrett Harper! He's to the 35, to the 40! He's got a blocker—
DALLAS JACKSON: He is a kid with reckless abandon. He's like a dog chasing a car. He just— he runs. He goes. He doesn't know when the car's going to start or stop. He doesn't know if he's going to get hit by a car, but he's going to keep chasing it.
NARRATOR: But Garrett's intensity has its price. Over the years, he's had multiple injuries, including two concussions. In his junior year, he had to be helped off the field after being smashed between two players from the opposing team. He was hit again in the first game of his senior season.
ANNOUNCER: Frazier keeps this one. He's going to go to his left. Harper out in front, trying to block. He lays a nice block there right across the 10—
JAMIE CROLEY, Shiloh Christian Athletic Trainer: You hear the big hit. I looked up to see Garrett there, laying there. And when he got up, you could tell there was something not quite right there.
JOSH FLOYD: Garrett's hurting. Garrett's hurting.
GARRETT HARPER: I can remember everything. I just got boosted.
The trainer said when I came off to the side I was, like, "I know everything. I know everything" because, you know, I didn't want him to think I had a concussion or anything.
JAMIE CROLEY: Years past, we used to say, "He got his bell rung," but we've kind of shied away from that and we actually call it what it is, and it was a little bit of a head trauma.
NARRATOR: There are at least 60,000 concussions like this one every year in high school football. Concussions have always been part of the game, but lately, they've been met with far more scrutiny. The NFL's high-profile drama over big hits played out all fall in the media.
NEWSCASTER: I don't know how you take this out of the game of football, but we've got to find a way. We've got to find a way.
NEWSCASTER: Recent studies show repeated concussions can have a long-term effect, like an increased risk of dementia.
NEWSCASTER: The NFL is finally aware that concussions cause real problems.
NEWSCASTER: There's mounting evidence it's putting players at risk of brain damage.
NARRATOR: Much of the evidence cited in the media emerged from a small lab at this VA hospital outside of Boston.
ANN MCKEE, M.D., Dir., New England VA Neuropathology Lab: It was shocking, actually, from the first case forward.
NARRATOR: Dr. Ann McKee is a neuropathologist who has found evidence of degenerative disease in the brains of over a dozen ex-NFL players. The disease, called CTE, can lead to depression, dementia, even suicide.
Dr. ANN McKEE: It's a progressive deterioration of your brain. We're seeing it over and over again in football players.
NARRATOR: By the summer of 2010, McKee had a new concern. She had autopsied the brain of Owen Thomas, a 21-year-old captain of the University of Pennsylvania football team who'd committed suicide the previous April. He had never played professional football.
Dr. ANN McKEE: I was expecting nothing. I mean, you have to remember that he's a young player. He's 21 years old. But what we found was damage to the point where I could actually see the damage on the slide without even looking at it under the microscope.
NARRATOR: Thomas's brain showed early signs of CTE.
Dr. ANN McKEE: To see it in such a young player— I have to say that I went home and I almost couldn't speak. It totally changed what I thought about this game.
NARRATOR: There was something else. Owen Thomas had never been diagnosed with a concussion.
CHRIS NOWINSKI, Boston Univ. School of Medicine: We were hopeful that this 21-year-old who'd been playing 12 years— that they would show that, you know, you need more than 12 years to get this disease, you need some more— you need real concussions to get this disease. But Owen's case kind of opened up a huge, dark world.
Dr. ANN McKEE: It was like this could happen to anybody. Anybody who's playing this game, this could happen. This could be the result. The question is, when does this start? Is this a process that starts much earlier in life than we used to be thinking about?
NARRATOR: Despite the public discussion about its health risks, more kids play football than any other sport, over a million across the country. A quarter of the boys at Shiloh are on the football team.
JOSH FLOYD, Shiloh Christian Head Coach: It's another great opportunity this week. We get to play the team that's the number one team in the country.
NARRATOR: Last season, Shiloh was invited to compete in one of the premier match-ups in high school football—
ANNOUNCER: The Burger King National Kickoff Classic!
NARRATOR: —on national television.
ANNOUNCER: Presented by Burger King!
NARRATOR: Events like these, pitting elite teams from different states against one another outside of the regular football schedule, are a new development in the sport.
SHILOH PLAYER: Is this a dream?
NARRATOR: The Saints would be playing in the $1.2 billion Dallas Cowboys stadium—
SHILOH PLAYER: Oh, my God. Holy crap!
NARRATOR: —home to this year's Super Bowl.
SHILOH PLAYER: Are you serious? Oh, my gosh!
NARRATOR: For Shiloh, it was a goal the team had long been working toward. But as their opponent took the field, the scale of the challenge they were facing became apparent. Euless Trinity of Texas has been ranked the number one high school team in America. There are 212 players on Trinity's roster, five times the size of Shiloh's. They are the very top of the high school football food chain.
DALLAS JACKSON: They won the Texas State Championship last year. They're always a contender. There's games that Euless Trinity wins just by getting off the bus.
NARRATOR: Of all that stands out about Trinity, it's the sheer size of their players that says the most about how high school football is changing.
STEVE LINEWEAVER, Euless Trinity Head Coach: You know, it used to be if you had a 200-pound player, it was a source of embarrassment, as if you weren't a real coach and you couldn't keep all that weight run off of him. You know, I mean, "You must need to"— you know, "You must be a soft coach to carry somebody that big." It's changed.
NARRATOR: Of the 89 players on Trinity's varsity team, 18 of them weigh over 250 pounds.
KELVIN WILLIAMS, Private Trainer: If you look at it position by position, you can only compare it to an NFL team. You really would. You're going to see 300-pound linemen. You're going to see 240, 250-pound linebackers. You're going to see 200-pound backs. I mean, it's just crazy. [laughs] They are huge.
NARRATOR: Trinity is not alone. They're at the front edge of a much broader trend.
GREGG EASTERBROOK, Columnist, ESPN.com: As recently as 20 years ago, it was pretty rare to find a high school offensive lineman who weighed more than 220, maybe 230. Now a lot of high schools, all their starting offensive linemen weigh more 300 pounds.
TRINITY TRAINER: There you go, big boy! Pull! Pull!
CHRIS NOWINSKI, Boston Univ. School of Medicine: Training habits are so different.
TRINITY TRAINER: Keep pulling! Keep pulling!
CHRIS NOWINSKI: You know, when I was in high school, or even college, I didn't really understand nutrition. I didn't really work out that hard in off-season because it wasn't done. Now that everybody has access to this information, it's easy for a 16 year-old kid to get up to 300 pounds if they eat right and they train right.
TRINITY TRAINER: You can't finish, Charles! You can't finish!
CHRIS NOWINSKI: We've learned a lot in the last couple decades, and so suddenly, we're able to turn these young boys into big monsters.
NARRATOR: With increased size comes increased force on the field.
CHRIS NOWINSKI: You know, if force equals mass times acceleration. Your mass goes up, and the kids are faster because they're training better, you've got more force in every hit.
NARRATOR: Trinity embraces the power that their size provides. The motto here is "If it ain't rough, it ain't right."
TRAVIS MOSELY, Euless Trinity Parent: That's their style of ball— hit 'em, hit 'em, hit 'em, hit 'em. They're going to hit you in the mouth. They're going to keep hitting you in the mouth until you say uncle. So— so it's a beautiful thing to be on their side, you know?
CONNOR COLE, Euless Trinity: We've been taught from, you know, 4th grade on that to be physical is the only way to play football. Our goal isn't to just win the game. Coaches talk about, you know, playing so hard that your opponent loses their next game, as well.
JASON DIBBLE, Euless Trinity Asst. Coach: We expect it. We demand it, for them to be that way. Football is violent. It's a violent sport. And I don't know that it can be too violent. Our brand is a physical brand of football. You know, it's got to be that way.
ANNOUNCER: We're back at Cowboy Stadium here in Arlington Texas, Victor. We're here along with Eric Vaughn, welcoming you to the Kirk Herbstreit National Kickoff Classic.
NARRATOR: As the game between Shiloh and Trinity began, some were worried about the safety of Shiloh's athletes.
KYLE O'NEAL, Reporter, ArkansasVarsity.com: This is a huge team with Trinity. Pretty much in all phases of the game, they're bigger than Shiloh. After some of these big hits — and there will be big hits — the coaches are going to have to make sure that they take care of their players.
JASON DIBBLE: What I thought is, Can we physically, you know, pound on these people until they give up? And if you look at history and you look at war, if you look, like, the whole Civil War is all basically who could get the other guy to leave the field first.
ANNOUNCER: Trinity's defense is excellent in pursuit and they never give up. Oh, hit hard there! They're going to push you and they're going to smash you in the mouth! Oh!
JIMMY HARRIS, Shiloh Christian Asst. Coach: They would hit us and hit us and hit us and hit us and hit us and come back and hit us again. Some of our guys, they went, "Man, this is different than what I thought it was going to be."
NARRATOR: By halftime, Shiloh trailed 53 to 20.
JOSH FLOYD, Shiloh Christian Head Coach: Listen, listen, we're all disappointed with that first half, OK? But let me tell you something. They're not going to quit, OK. You better play physical. Do not cower down! You better not cower down! Now's the time to fight more than ever. You understand me? You guys, I'm going to hurt you if you cower down because that's not who we are.
NARRATOR: The pounding continued in the second half of the game. Late in the third quarter, Shiloh's star defensive lineman, Sam Harvill, cramping and unable to stand, had to be carried off the field.
Despite the best efforts of their all-star quarterback, Kiehl Frazier, Shiloh lost badly. The final score was 80 to 26.
JOSH FLOYD: That's what a butt kicking feels like, if you all never knew. They whipped our tail, all right?
Pastor RONNIE FLOYD: We learned a lot,. We learned we're not as good as maybe we thought we were, OK?
JOSH FLOYD: I'm proud of your effort. And you know, hey, we're not the best team in Texas or in the country today. That's just how it is, you know what I mean?
RONNIE FLOYD: It just shows where our program's got to go. You know, if we're really ever going to do it all, and to be up at that top five or ten in the nation, we can't be afraid to play with anybody in America.
NARRATOR: Shiloh had escaped with their pride wounded but with no serious injuries. But as the Saints turned to face the rest of their season, researchers were uncovering some disturbing evidence about the kind of physical football that Shiloh had just endured.
Starting in 2009, scientists at Purdue University put sensors into the helmets of two high school football teams. The sensors measured every impact the athletes took over the course of a season.
TOM TALAVAGE, Assoc. Professor, Purdue Univ.: The original intent for this study was to study concussions. But we didn't experience any concussions for quite a few weeks, so we decided we would start bringing in some of our players who had not experienced concussions to just begin to understand whether or not there were any consequences from the blows that they were getting to their head.
[www.pbs.org: More on the Purdue research parents should know]
NARRATOR: To the researchers' surprise, neurological tests revealed that players who had never reported symptoms of a concussion had suffered significant damage to their memories.
TOM TALAVAGE: You know what to do. This is the letters test, zero back, one back and two back.
What we're finding is that these sub-concussive blows, these blows that do not result in overt symptoms, have the risk of impairing your abilities.
NARRATOR: Half of the athletes with no reported concussions performed increasingly worse on cognitive tests as the season wore on.
TOM TALAVAGE: In the very simple task of, "Does this letter match the ones that I was just shown," their brain simply couldn't do the tasks as well.
DAVID EPSTEIN, Staff writer, Sports Illustrated: That's a new part of the story, and that's a little frightening. We were saying, "Look, the best predictor of the cognitive impairment in that study group, in that high school group was not concussions, it was the number of hits that they were taking." It's starting to look a little bit more like the daily wear and tear in football on the brain might be looking a little more akin to the daily wear and tear of, you know, the rotator cuff in someone who pitches, where it's not a single blowout event, but there might be some repetitive damage over time.
CHRIS NOWINSKI, Boston Univ. School of Medicine: The sensors in helmets find that high school kids take more force to the brain than college kids. And the reality is, we know from the literature that the young, developing brain is far more vulnerable to this trauma.
Dr. ANN McKEE: How do you change the game so that you're not getting all these small little hits that don't rise to the level of concussion? That's sort of the nature of the game. That's how it's being played. Every time we line up, even in a practice, that's what's happening. So we're going to have to make dramatic changes or we don't change— we don't change the face of this disease.
[www.pbs.org: Research parents should know]
NARRATOR: The research is still preliminary, and what these revelations will mean for the sport is anybody's guess. Although coaches and players are aware of the headlines, the culture of the game remains very much as it has always been.
ANDREW ROWE, Shiloh Christian: I hit people a lot with my head. That's sort of my main thing. When I didn't weigh as much, that was my only weapon. My helmet kind of shows all the marks and how much I've hit people. Fortunately, now, with the technology helmets and the amount of padding that they have and— it's basically like you're head's sitting in a basket, even to the point where if I hit someone really hard, it doesn't really hurt.
B.J. MAACK, Arkansas Assoc. of Athletic Trainers: A helmet is not going to prevent a concussion. The helmet design of today and the past has always been about keeping the skull from getting a fracture, not a concussion. Just because you have a helmet on doesn't make you invincible. And that's the danger that we've got to change the culture on.
NARRATOR: With the new awareness about head injuries, the coaches at Shiloh say they are more careful. But their big loss to Trinity only strengthened their resolve to play a more physical game.
SHILOH COACH: We're going to run you all dead. We're killing y'all. I'm just telling you.
JIMMY HARRIS: We're aware of concussions. We're aware of head injuries, and we take that very serious. But you can't play worried about getting hurt.
Trinity taught us that if I hit you hard enough or I hit you often enough, I can knock a little bit of fear into you. If we can be physical enough to put— to make the other opponent not want to keep fighting, that's what we're going to do.
B.J. MAACK: It becomes a "keeping up with the Joneses" issue. You know, if school A has got this unbelievable program, unbelievable athletes, and then they go and beat up on school B, well, school B is going to go, "We got to do that, too." But then I'm beating you every day. And eventually, you figure out how you're going to turn around and get me. Well, we just raised the bar again.
NARRATOR: Even the smallest teams in Arkansas aspire to be like Shiloh.
BROOKS COATNEY, Ozark High School Head Coach: There's not anyone in Arkansas that needs to be explained what Shiloh Christian football's about. Their reputation is that they pretty much beat people's brains in.
NARRATOR: Ozark, Arkansas, population 3,500, financed a bond to build a $415,000 turf field for their football team and hired a new head coach with big ambitions.
BROOKS COATNEY: Last year was my first year as the head coach, and we, you know, made some strides towards being competitive.
NARRATOR: This Friday night, the team is traveling 70 miles to Springdale to play Shiloh Christian for the first time.
TAYLOR McILROY, Ozark Hillbillies: Any shot that you get to take out the number one team in the state, I say you should go ahead and take it. I'm loving every single bit of this. The coach that we had last time wouldn't have gave us any of this.
ERIC CAPP, Ozark High School Asst. Coach: There's a slogan that goes around here that's "HPRD"— "Hillbilly pride runs deep." When I was growing up, it was always just, you know, hard-nosed kids, smash-mouth football. That's what we're trying to get back to.
BROOKS COATNEY: Everybody that has played these guys has let them come out, punched them in the mouth, and then laid down and let them roll over them. You know, maybe they are that good, but let's find out.
ERIC CAPP: No matter what happens in the game, we're going to continue to lay the wood, lay the wood every play, all right, hit their ass until they don't want to be hit any more. You hit 'em, hit 'em, hit 'em, hit 'em, OK? I don't care what the score is, you hit them every play.
There's not a team we've played this year that has not been bigger than us. We're like a— hopefully, we're like a little pit bull, you know? We just go after them. Ankle biters. [laughs]
ANNOUNCER: Shiloh Christian's just got a huge defensive line, and they're really fast at the lineback. It's tough to run on them.
ANNOUNCER: The give is to Ree [sp?], and Ree is met immediately by Harvill, Coffman [sp?]—
ANNOUNCER: They have the whole Saint defense on top of them.
NARRATOR: The final score, Shiloh 47, Ozark 14.
BROOKS COATNEY: Obviously, physically, they're talented. But that's a level of football that I think we can obtain. We've got to, obviously, get some guys that are physically gifted a little bit like they are. But I think our guys have the grit and determination to play at that level.
All right, our goal, our goal now is to host the playoff game, OK? That's our goal. Let's— let's all— let's all jump on board, all right?
DAVID EPSTEIN, Staff writer, Sports Illustrated: The intensity and competitiveness of high school football culture will be very difficult to change. The stakes have been ratcheted up for everybody, and they were already really high. As far as the game goes, I think it's a good thing. As far as the health of the players, it means we have to be more responsible in making sure they have somebody watching who knows what to do if something goes wrong.
NEWSCASTER: Fox 16's Karoline Whiteman is live at Children's Hospital. And Karoline, what are doctors saying about these kids?
REPORTER: Well, Donna, Tyler Davenport collapsed from heat stroke after practice on Wednesday morning.
NARRATOR: As football season progressed, the whole state was following the progress of Will James and Tyler Davenport, the two boys who had collapsed from heat stroke over the summer.
NEWSCASTER: Tyler Davenport collapsed during a Lamar High School Football practice on August 11th. He's been in the hospital ever since.
NARRATOR: Tyler Davenport came from Lamar, a town right near Ozark.
ERIC CAPP, Ozark High School Asst. Coach: That's right down the road. A lot of our players knew him. That kind of hits close to home when it happens, you know, that close.
NARRATOR: The two players had both passed out on the field after practicing in the blistering August heat.
ERIC CAPP: We had almost a three-week span where it was over 100 degrees every day, so you do try to take extra caution. It does make you think a little bit when it's that hot outside.
INTERVIEWER: But you still practice?
ERIC CAPP: Oh, you have to practice. You know, have to practice to be ready for the season to start. So yeah, we don't— we don't cancel practice because of the heat.
NARRATOR: Both Tyler and Will were put in medically induced comas in the same ICU at Arkansas Children's Hospital. Both faced the possibility of permanent damage to their organs from the heat stroke.
PATTI JAMES, Will James's Mother: From comparing notes, you know, it seemed like that they were both having some of the same issues. You know, Will had had damage to his liver, Tyler had had damage to his liver. But we were all real hopeful.
NARRATOR: As the weeks passed, Will James slowly began to recover, while Tyler did not. After three weeks in the hospital, Will was released, weak and needing kidney dialysis. On the day he left, he visited Tyler for the first time.
WILL JAMES, Pulaski Academy: It was a really emotional experience because I remember walking to the intensive care unit, and I just remember seeing him laying on his bed. Skin was just mis-colored. It was kind of like a light orange color. His just teeth were just, you know, disarranged from all the drugs they had to put him on. He was in the middle of dialysis. You know, patches of hair were missing, like mine was. It was just a really overwhelming sight.
NARRATOR: Six weeks later, Tyler passed away.
WILL JAMES: When we got to the funeral, there were just cars lined up for at least two miles. It was really difficult. You know, I'm thinking if I was the one to die and Tyler was the one to live, just thinking, like, you know, he would probably attend my funeral, and all that. Just—
NARRATOR: It was only after Tyler's death that crucial differences between the two boys' cases began to emerge.
TODD ROSS, Pulaski Academy Athletic Trainer: He was in the back of the end zone, and coaches and I were somewhere right in here.
NARRATOR: Todd Ross is a certified athletic trainer who is at every football practice and game at the private school Will James attends. He was on the field when Will collapsed.
TODD ROSS: He made it to about the 5-yard line. We picked him up and we started to carry him towards that gate. We got him into the junior high locker room because it was the closest locker room. Since he was unconscious, we opted for putting him in the shower and dumping ice on him, after we had started to slow down his— lower his body temperature.
DOUGLAS CASA, Ph.D., Korey Stringer Institute, UConn: There should never, ever be a person die from exertional heat stroke because it's 100 percent survivable.
NARRATOR: Doug Casa is a leading expert on heat stroke.
DOUGLAS CASA: The key to surviving an exertional heat stroke is what you do in the first five to ten minutes. You have to minimize the amount of time that the athlete is hyperthermic. It basically comes down to somewhere between around 105 to 106 degrees. How many minutes are you above this critical threshold for cell damage will impact if the athlete lives or dies.
NARRATOR: That's what was at stake for Tyler Davenport on the field at Lamar when he collapsed.
LANCE SPENCE, Lamar High School Asst. Coach: Some of the kids got up and they hollered out, "Coach, something's wrong with TD."
NARRATOR: Without an athletic trainer to respond, Tyler's coaches were left to manage on their own.
LANCE SPENCE: We got his helmet and shoulder pads off, got cold towels and water on him. At that point, he kind of quit talking, so that's when we called the ambulance, and then just covered him in cold towels and water and waited for the ambulance to get there.
NARRATOR: As they waited, they tried to cool him down where he had fallen on the practice field.
INTERVIEWER: How long was he sitting on the field while you waited for the ambulance?
LANCE SPENCE: Ten, fifteen minutes after we made the phone call. It might have been less. It seemed like forever.
Dr. MICHELLE MOSS, Arkansas Children's Hospital: When he got to the local ER, his temperature was measured at 108.5. And they started maneuvers and getting fluid in him and cooling him off, but the die was already cast with that temp at 108.
LANCE SPENCE: I just figured it was, you know, heat exhaustion, bad heat exhaustion. And it turned out to be a heat stroke. I mean, it just goes from not very good to real bad in a hurry.
B.J. MAACK, Arkansas Assoc. of Athletic Trainers: Coaches up there and the parents, with the young man in Lamar, they did all that they knew what to do, and they should be commended for their efforts. Unfortunately, there was more that a trained person could have done, get him out of the heat immediately. It's real easy to sit and go "Hindsight's 20/20," but I think it was the critical step in the whole process.
INTERVIEWER: What's your policy on players practicing when it's extremely hot in the summer?
JOEY WALTERS, Dpty. Dir., Arkansas Activities Assn.: Well, we have no policy on that. We have— we have recommendations for schools to utilize.
NARRATOR: Joey Walters is the deputy director of the Arkansas Activities Association, a small agency that oversees all high school athletics in the state.
JOEY WALTERS: We have recommendations in terms of when it would be dangerous to have practice, what to have out there at the practice field — ice, water for to cool the bodies down — times for water breaks, times for them to have practices. Those are the things that we provide for our schools.
INTERVIEWER: But nothing happens to them if they don't meet those guidelines?
JOEY WALTERS: At this time, no, ma'am.
NARRATOR: Like most other states, Arkansas doesn't mandate that high schools have any athletic trainers on the football field. Only 15 percent of their schools do.
BROOKS COATNEY, Ozark High School Head Coach: You know, you look at the places you need it, and right now, that's a place that, you know, we can say, Well, we can get by with having coaches, and so that's what— you know, that's what we do.
LANCE SPENCE: We used to have the aid of a trainer, but we don't do that anymore. We— I mean, the— there's really not money there. It's not state-mandated, and a lot of schools just can't afford it. It's just another position that's got to come out of a tight budget already.
NARRATOR: Unlike college and the pros, high school football has no national agency with the power to enforce safety rules or policies. Critical decisions fall to those in charge on the sidelines, who are often under pressure to win.
GREGG EASTERBROOK, Columnist, ESPN.com: The incentive structure's all wrong. The coaches are under intense pressure to win games. It's the only thing that they are judged by. So if you have a player with concussion symptoms and you send him back into the game and he gets the second concussion, which is always worse than the first, there's no penalty for you as a coach for doing that. If you pull the kid out of the game and take away his helmet and say "You can't play again until you've been examined by a doctor" and you lose the game, there's a penalty for that.
JOSH FLOYD, Shiloh Christian Head Coach: Watch the football! Watch your ball!
NARRATOR: Even for those schools that have trainers and doctors on hand, game decisions are not always consistent.
JOSH FLOYD: Make a play right here! Let's go!
NARRATOR: When star Shiloh running back Garrett Harper had his first concussion, it was in one of the most important games of his junior season and at a time when there was less awareness of the dangers of concussions. He was hit so hard, he had to be helped off the field. But by the second half, he was cleared to go back into the game.
CRAIG HARPER, Garrett's Father: The trainers and the doctors evaluated him and checked on him again at half-time and said he could go back in and play. But anytime you see your child injured, you know, you— you're nervous about that and you want to be sure people are making the right decision and all.
SHILOH PLAYER: Garrett's hurt! Garrett's hurt!
NARRATOR: When Garrett got his second concussion this year, Shiloh was already far in the lead. His coaches and trainer decided to hold him out.
SHILOH TRAINER: He's going to be fine, and we can just sit him this series.
JOSH FLOYD: We'd kind of put the game away already, so we didn't really want to take any chances. We got together and we just said, "Hey, if the game gets tight again, then we'll put him back in there. But if not, then let's keep him out."
NARRATOR: At schools like Shiloh and Trinity, the pressure to stay in the game affects the players, too.
DEVONTE SIMMONS, Euless Trinity: They teach us to play hard even when you're hurt. It's instilled in us since we're in junior high school that, you know, get back up. It's all right. You can go to the next play.
ANNOUNCER: Hands off to Garrett Harper. Garrett Harper to the goal line, to the end zone! That's a Shiloh Christian touchdown!
GARRETT HARPER, Shiloh Christian: I'm not going to, like, think about, like, what could happen because there's so many things out there that everyone says, like, this could happen if you do that, you know. So, like, why worry about that?
KIEHL FRAZIER, Shiloh Christian: Whenever you start playing the game, you know that there's a chance you could get a concussion. Even if you do, it's— usually, it's not life-threatening or anything like that. It says it can shorten your life, but it won't shorten it, like, that much. And you only live once, so you might as well have fun while you're living.
CONNOR COLE, Euless Trinity: You're only 17 once. I mean, I have the rest of my life to worry about pain and stuff like that. I can only, you know, play football for so long. I might as well, you know, use the time I have and worry about the effects later.
DAVID EPSTEIN, Staff writer, Sports Illustrated: The game's about toughness. And that's part of the bonding, that's part of the learning experience. Particularly in the heat of a game, you know, when your friends are around you and the game's on the line, and you want to play and you have a limited time to play and a limited football career— giving that up, I just don't think that's what any competitive athlete really wants to do.
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NARRATOR: By December, Shiloh was playing for their third state championship in as many years. Their opponent was another private school with a winning football program, Pulaski Academy.
COACH: Every hit is a kill shot!
NARRATOR: And on the field playing for Pulaski was number 75, Will James, who returned to the team just six weeks after his release from the hospital for heat stroke.
PATTI JAMES: Common sense tells me, "Oh, gosh, don't let him get back out there. He could get hurt." But he has been given a great gift, another chance, another opportunity. And I can't not let him live his life.
INTERVIEWER: You're not scared of getting hurt?
WILL JAMES: I've already had an injury to my right knee about for the last three years. But you know, those are just injuries. They can heal up.
INTERVIEWER: You want to play.
WILL JAMES: More than anything.
NARRATOR: Shiloh won the game and took home the state title, cementing their status as the best team in their class in Arkansas.
JOSH FLOYD, Shiloh Christian Head Coach: Going to miss you seniors. Love you guys.
NARRATOR: Three of the seniors on the team are heading to major division one college football programs next year.
NEWSCASTER: So what does the future hold for Garrett Harper?
GARRETT HARPER: We don't know yet. We'll see.
NARRATOR: Running back Garrett Harper didn't get any big scholarship offers, but Auburn, SMU and Arkansas have all invited him to try out for their football teams as a freshman. He's still deciding.
Kiehl Frazier has made his choice. He will be vying for the starting quarterback position at Auburn University, the top college program in the country. He leaves to join his new team the day after graduation.