ROCKLAND, Maine — The Rockland District High School football team ended the regular season with a record of four wins and four losses, but as far as the Rockland City Council is concerned, the boys on the team are all champions.
During Monday night’s regular meeting, the council honored the Rockland Tigers football team, parents and coaching staff for their courage and sense of community during a terrifying event on Oct. 15. That evening, player John Gerry accidentally fell from the hood of his friend’s Toyota in the school parking lot and was run over and then trapped under the car.
“His teammates, available coaching staff, parents and friends of the team were able to pick up the car and hold it off of him until Emergency Medical Services arrived,” the council wrote in a resolution. “This act of quick thinking, strength and resolve saved the young team member’s life.”
The council chambers were crowded with more than a dozen football players and many of their parents and coaches, who walked past the councilors after the resolution was read aloud and shook each of their hands.
“I thought it was great to get recognized,” sophomore Daniel Stone, 16, said afterward.
Assistant coach Richard Barratt agreed.
“It was well-deserved for the kids,” he said.
The night of the accident, one of the football dads on the scene, Jason Butman, quickly organized the boys to lift the car off their friend. Daniel Stone was one of the students who helped lift the vehicle. His father, Jim Stone, has some first aid training and pulled Gerry — who at first had no detectable pulse — out from under the car. Barratt also was there, helping with the rescue after he made the 911 call for help.
“All I saw was a backpack,” Jim Stone recalled Monday of running out from the team dinner to find the commotion around the Toyota. “And then I lifted the backpack. I said, ‘Oh my God, there’s a kid under here.’”
Gerry was face down in the gravel with the vehicle on his back. A dozen or so boys huddled around the car, dead-lifting for their friend’s life, but the Toyota was still in gear and when it cleared Gerry’s body, the wheels started spinning right next to his head.
“That was the worst part for me,” Jim Stone said.
Butman was able to put the car in park while it was in midair, the men said. The group breathed a sigh of relief when the weight lifted off Gerry’s back and they heard him finally catch his breath.
Jim Stone helped gently ease Gerry forward about three feet until he was away from the car and then the group waited for help.
It took paramedics only a few minutes to arrive at the parking lot, the men said, not 20 minutes as has been reported.
“It might have seemed like 20 minutes,” Jim Stone said.
Once Gerry was being treated in the hospital, it became clear that aside from some gravel in his eyes and scrapes and bruises, he essentially was unscathed. It was also clear just how close a shave it had been.
“The whole thing was just a miracle, period,” Jim Stone said.
Councilor Elizabeth Dickerson said that she wanted to officially recognize the team’s effort.
“It’s important for young people to know they’re connected to government and that government cares about them,” she said. “We were proud of them for pulling together, and we want to support them in good times and bad times.”
Coach Woody Moore, who wasn’t at the rescue scene, said that Gerry played again for Rockland just two weeks after being run over.
“He strapped it on,” Moore said. “He was adamant. ‘Listen, coach. Don’t even consider not playing me.’”
For the City Council resolution, Moore told Gerry to contact his teammates.
“They all were here,” he said. “That was pretty amazing. There wasn’t anybody missing. We talk all year about how team is about team and not I. They were and are definitely a family.”
After the City Council meeting, Gerry said the recognition his teammates and others received made him really think about the sense of community he feels in Rockland and at the high school.
“I think it was really good,” he said of the team being acknowledged by the councilors. “They recognized it was actually like a family.”
All the players wanted to go, he said.
“Just to show support. It’s not that often we get recognized,” he said.
Gerry said he wanted an opportunity to thank people for helping to save him, including Rockland EMS, the football team, Jim Stone, Jason Butman and the staff at Penobscot Bay Medical Center in Rockport.
His mom, Vickie Gerry, also was thankful.
“It was very scary,” she said of seeing her son on the ground in the parking lot.
She appreciated the council’s resolution.
“I think it was totally amazing and awesome,” she said. “For them to be acknowledged and appreciated at this young age is awesome. They will always be the team that stuck together.”