A 14-year-old youth football player passed away Monday night after collapsing at halftime of a National Youth Sports football game at Ed Fountain Park.
Issaiah Abrego, an eighth grader at Brian & Teri Cram Middle School, had been sitting out of the game which had started at 6:45 p.m. for about “three to four minutes” prior to halftime as his team — the Green Machine — led 28-0 over a rival team, according to his coach.
“It wasn’t a very competitive game,” said Green Machine coach Kevin Walker, who has coached Abrego since 2011. “He was a starter, but he wasn’t getting a lot of time.”
Abrego, a lineman, showed no signs of being ill, and was walking towards the end zone for halftime snacks and a pep talk before collapsing on the field. His father said he was told by doctors that the death might have been heart related.
“I hopped the fence so fast and went to him,” said father German Abrego, 30. “He was having a hard time breathing. His eyes were rolled back. His tongue was in the back of his throat. …
“It’s hard. He was our first kid. We were so young when we had him. We took him to different places, traveled. He was a good kid and was loved by everybody. Just wanted to help anybody. Always a caring kid.”
According to Walker, Issaiah Abrego never regained consciousness after about 15 minutes of CPR on the field, 10 minutes in the ambulance and additional time at the Pediatric Emergency Room at University Medical Center.
The second half of the game was not played.
“The kids were just going to the other side of the field for a halftime break,” Walker said. “He was talking to his parents, smiling, telling them what he wanted to eat after the game.”
The exact cause of death is unknown, however it’s not believed to be football-related, his father said.
“It’s a great sport. It keeps the kids active and out of trouble,” German Abrego said. “It’s just that my son had something different that affected him. It could happen to anyone.”
Walker, who has been around the Green Machine program since 2004, has never seen anything of this nature. But he agreed it was not because of football.
“The doctors made it clear,” he said. “The issues with his heart were not related to sports.”
Issaiah Abrego, who was 5 feet, 10 inches and 220 pounds, played tackle football since fifth grade and also participated in a year of flag football beforehand. He had a regular checkup last February and even took a free EKG test six months ago.
Nothing showed up abnormal.
“We’re still waiting on the results,” German Abrego said of the autopsy. “Could be an infection or virus in his heart. Autopsy could be a while. The EKG was normal. He never complained. He was a healthy kid.”
Issaiah Abrego was a big Oakland Raiders fan — something he shared with his father — and played the trumpet and baritone in the school band. He was on the A/B Honor Roll and planned on entering the Sports Medicine program at Mojave next year.
A GoFundMe page was set up early Tuesday morning and has raised $7,406 dollars in 18 hours.
“It’s tough. He’s not just a player. That’s my family,” Walker said. “That’s my extended family. I’ve known these guys and we’d do everything. I play Words With Friends with his dad every day. It’s going to be tough to move forward.”
The football game was originally slated to be played on Saturday, but was rescheduled because of rain.
Issaiah Abrego is survived by his parents, Veronica and German, and a five-week-old sibling.
Walker said he plans on having grief counselors at the Green Machine’s next practice, which is scheduled for Wednesday.
Contact reporter Ashton Ferguson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0430. Follow him on Twitter: @af_ferguson