Published 12:03 am Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Northwest Escambia Youth Football League coach suffered a heart attack between games against Flomaton at Northview High School on Saturday.

NEYFL President Greg Gibson, who is the 11-to-12-year-old coach, said that 7-to-8-year-old defensive coordinator Ricky Payne fell down as teams were shaking hands after the second, or sophomore age group’s, game.

“For all intense and purposes, it looked like he was going to die on the football field,” Gibson said. “I believe they lost him a couple of times, but they tried to get him back with (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).

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“I really do believe a miracle did happen,” he said.

Dr. Sheldon Harigel, an Atmore physician and an emergency responder for football games, was over by the concession stand when Payne had his heart attack.

“It took him a minute to register what happened,” Gibson said. “At first, everyone thought he was having a seizure.”

Gibson said Harigel and others were taking turns doing CPR on Payne, adding that if it weren’t for them, the coach would’ve passed away.

While chest compressions were being administered, Gibson said a school resource officer; a volunteer coach and former player entered the high school to get the automated external defibrillator (AED).

“I opened the gate for the ambulance,” he said. “They went back and got the AED unit. They shocked him and tried to get him back to life.”

Payne was transported via Lifeflight to Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola, Fla., where he underwent emergency surgery.

Gibson said a stint was placed in his heart and the doctor said he’s going to make a full recovery.

While the events took place, Payne’s wife’s grandfather appeared to be having a heart attack in the stands, Gibson said. Lifeflight also came and transported the grandfather to the hospital.

“I think he had a panic attack,” Gibson said.

During the events that unfolded, prayers and well wishes were being sent toward Payne as first responders and doctors tended to him.

Gibson said Walnut Hill Baptist Church Pastor Ted Bridges offered a prayer over the announcer system.

“Coaches were praying and crying,” Gibson said. “I know it sounds cliché, it appeared like something out of a movie. It was just a wild set of events.”

Prior to Payne having his heart attack, Gibson said Payne helped lead his team to a thrilling win over Flomaton

“They had an outstanding game,” he said. “It was 13-12 and Flomaton was driving, and we got a big stop. The offense was able to go down and score, and go up 19-13.”

Gibson said because of the events that took place, all other games were canceled. Throughout it all, the Flomaton teams and fans showed a lot of class, he said.