By Tyler Slash
The season was almost over, but the Raiders continued to play as hard as ever on Nov. 8 in the VISSAA Division III state semi-finals game even though the outcome was decided. Then, a tragic accident happened to freshman Robert "Eli" Swain.
It was late in the fourth quarter, 3:21 left to play to be exact. Sophomore middle linebacker Lucas Arnold was in the process of making a tackle on one of the Fredericksburg Christian running backs and somehow landed into Swain’s right leg.
Swain suffered a dislocated knee and a broken bone in two places.
"It was late in the game and we had all of our young guys in," Arnold said. "I was coming at an angle to tackle their running back and had to dive and when I made the tackle I took Eli's legs out and he began screaming." Arnold followed up by saying that when one person goes down we all go down. "I feel like he'll bounce back quick."
Someone who played a big help in keeping Eli calm and made sure he made it to the hospital safe was assistant coach David Lake.
"My first thought was what happened and how could I help," said Lake. "Anytime you see a player go down you immediately hope that they can get up and rebound quickly, but when you see something as serious as Eli's injury, you begin to start worrying and praying that he heals up quickly."
Lucky for him Dr. Joseph Moskal was present and could do an operation on Eli right there on the field.
"He moved my calf gently around and popped [my knee] back in place," Swain said, "I didn't really feel a thing."
Dr. Moskal ensured that Swain was rushed to Mary Washington Hospital, where doctors performed a surgery to save his leg. Swain returned to Roanoke and is at Carillion Roanoke Memorial Hospital where he underwent another surgery on Nov. 11. Swain may need more surgeries to help his leg recover fully. The prognosis is that he may even return to athletics at some point next year.
With this tragic accident Eli and his mom have became closer and feel more a part of the North Cross family.
"With all the people, the players on the team going to visit him at the hospital and the kids in the lower school making cards for him,” Lake said, “I think they appreciate that and feel even more welcomed to the school."
An eyewitness to the injury was freshman Bennett Dorton.
"All I remember seeing is Rob going in for a tackle and Lucas swinging in the air and hitting him," Dorton said. "When I saw his leg and him going in opposite directions – and his foot dangling – I already knew something bad happen and all I could do was turn and look away because of how it looked."
Eli and Bennett are really close friends and have built a bound with each other over the first couple of months of school.
"Eli is a great dude that is always happy," Dorton said. "I can't really think of anybody that doesn't like him, he's a joy to be around and I'm happy that he's handling this calm.”