(WVUE) - The St. Paul's Wolves will be one player short Friday night when they face Evangel in the playoffs, after junior defensive back Michael Doherty suffered a devastating injury in the team's last game.
It happened as the Wolves matched up against Shaw in the playoffs. During an interception, Doherty took a hit that left him nearly motionless on the field.
His father, David Doherty, following his son on every play, could only watch from the stands.
"One minute you're in a high school playoff game enjoying it, the next minute your son is laying on the ground," Doherty said.
St. Paul's Athletic Director Craig Ketelsen said the stadium went silent as trainers and EMTs began to treat Doherty.
"We were actually very thankful. Shaw had a priest on the sidelines, he came and held Michael's hand and I think that was very comforting to Michael, who was obviously a little nervous and upset as well," Ketelsen said.
Doherty suffered a broken vertebra and was rushed to the hospital for a six hour surgery.
Immediately there was an outpouring of support from the community, including his teammates who rushed to the hospital to visit Doherty before he went into surgery.
"I went over the weekend and actually couldn't get to see him because there were so many kids in line waiting to see him. It was a very long wait. The hospital actually had to stop people from coming, it was such an incredible outpouring," Ketelsen said.
Students held prayer a prayer vigil Sunday night that drew a crowd of hundreds, and another during lunch at the school on Monday.
Doherty even received support from Saints defensive back Delvin Breaux, who suffered a similar injury before college and was told he'd likely never play football again. First Breaux tweeted, writing "Prayers up young warrior," and then Doherty got a a call from the NFL star over the weekend to wish him luck in his recovery.
For Doherty's parents, the number of friends who have stayed at the hospital is overwhelming, but comforting.
"Over the last few days, with the weekend being what it was, there was just such an outpouring of people and people just kept coming and coming and we let them see Michael, because it was best for him that's what he wanted, he wanted to see everybody," Doherty said.
While there is no definite time table for Doherty's recovery, his parents, friends, and family are determined to ignore the "what-ifs" and focus on the positives.
"We're not even entertaining that because we know his spirit, we know the drive he has, we know the spirit he has and he'll do whatever it takes, and like you said, there are so many examples and he'll shoot for the stars - he will, we know that," Doherty said.
Doherty is already looking to the future, even telling friends he'll be back on the field next season.
The Wolves take on Evangel at home Friday evening, and the crowd is expected to be large in support of Michael, and the team is determined to deliver a special gift that evening.
"There's no doubt they want to bring that football over to the hospital, that championship football to the hospital Friday night," Ketelsen said.