Dutchtown High School football team mourns death of player

John Dupont

Preparation for Dutchtown High School's 2012 football season were suspended last week as coaches and players grieve the loss of a player who died Thursday.

Incoming freshman football player James Cobb died Thursday after he collapsed while playing basketball court in the Dutchtown High School gymnasium.

"Everything is on hold right now," Dutchtown head football coach Benny Saia said. "We're trying to pull together right now because we've always been a family, and a member of that family has passed. We're trying to pull through this.

"We're hoping to offer something to his immediate family in the near future," he said.

Cobb (6-foot, 200 lbs.) showed great potential for the coming years, Saia said.

"He was one of the more advanced athletes," he said. "He looked healthy and strong."

Cobb was playing on the court with a group of friends after football conditioning drills, according to Johnnie Balfantz, public information officer for the Ascension Parish School Board.

Cobb was not in football practice, as one TV station reported Thursday. The Louisiana High School Athletic Association does not allow football practice to begin until early August.

Emergency responders were called to the scene around 1 p.m., he said.

School officials called 911, Balfantz said. Acadian Ambulance Air-Med flew Cobb to Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, where he was pronounced dead.

Balfantz was not certain of Cobb’s age, although one source stated he was 14.

“I’m not sure of his exact age, but I would think he was either 13 or 14,” he said. “He was an incoming freshman who had not even started his first day of class.”

Approximately 40 students were present – some going in and out the gym – at the time Cobb collapsed, Balfantz said.

Grief counselors met with players inidividually Friday, Saia said.

Saia could not give a time frame as to when the team would resume activity.

"We'll continue when we have more of a handle on things," he said.

Saia said he was a meeting of the Louisiana Coaches Association when he was notified of Cobb's death.

"They told me I needed to get (to school) in a hurry," he said. "This is the first time this is ever happened -- and hopefully it will be the last."