A neck injury suffered by a high school player on Friday is the latest heart-wrenching moment of a particularly grim football season across the state.

It was the latest injury of a football player during the same week that a Linden High School died after suffering a game-related injury.

Aaron Van Trease was airlifted from the game at the team’s home field on Line Road in Holmdel and on Saturday, underwent surgery at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.

“As a Catholic school, we know the power of prayer and are asking our community to come together to pray for the speedy recovery of Aaron Van Trease,” Saint John Vianney High School said Sunday.

“His parents are asking for prayers and privacy at this time as he recovers,” a spokesperson for the school’s Athletic Department said Monday in a written response to New Jersey 101.5.

The senior athlete, who also plays quarterback, had been playing defensive back when he was hurt early in the game amid an attempted tackle, as reported by Shore Sports Network.

Surrounding communities, including Howell, Keyport and Manasquan — the team that St. John Vianney played on Friday — all sent out thoughts and prayers for Van Trease's recovery.

Player dies after injury

Also on Friday night, Marlboro High School quarterback AJ Schwartz suffered a knee/leg injury during the township’s game at Howell High School.

Schwartz was said to be doing well and was in good spirits as of Monday, according to a Marlboro athletic department official.

Both injuries were suffered just two days after the death of an injured 16-year-old football player from Union County.

Linden resident and high school sophomore Xavier McClain suffered a traumatic brain injury during a game on Sept. 9. He had remained on life support and died of his injury on Sept. 21, according to his family.

 How common are football injuries in high school?

Catastrophic or fatal injuries in high school football are "extremely rare," said Michael Cherenson, spokesman for the N.J. State Interscholastic Athletic Association, the body that regulates high school athletics.

When injuries occur, the "NJSIAA works with the NFHS Sports Medicine Advisory Committee and the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research to collect information that can be used to assess potential rule and policy revisions – all in an effort to keep student-athletes as safe as possible," he said Monday.

"Our hearts go out to the families, friends, and school communities impacted by recent tragedies involving high school football student-athletes."

Linden student athlete, Xavier McClain, died on Sept. 21 (Dignity Memorial via Krowicki McCracken Funeral Home)
Linden student athlete, Xavier McClain, died on Sept. 21 (Dignity Memorial via Krowicki McCracken Funeral Home)

More tragedy in Union County

It has been an unimaginable season in Union County, as McClain’s fatal injury occurred one day after the death of a Rahway High School senior athlete at home.

Ali Muhammed died on Sept. 8 — just a month shy of his 18th birthday, according to his obituary. The teen was a proud member of both the football and baseball teams for his school.

At Saturday's Rutgers University football game, the Scarlet Knights held a moment of silence in remembrance of both late teen athletes.

Gary Miller — an alumnus of both Linden and Rutgers, tweeted a photo of the moment, saying "Beautiful gesture by @RFootball to have a moment of silence for @LindenFootball’s Xavier McClain and @rahwayfootball’s Ali Muhammad tonight. This former Tiger was fighting back tears."

St. John Vianney was among schools that send condolences after Muhammad's death, responding to a tweet by the Rahway team, “It is with great sadness, and a heavy heart, that we are sharing the unfortunate passing of Rahway Senior football player, Ali Muhamad. Our hearts go out to the family during this tough time. You will forever be in our thoughts.”

The football teams of St. John Vianney and Marlboro were slated to face off against each other on Saturday, Oct. 1, in Holmdel.

Erin Vogt is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at erin.vogt@townsquaremedia.com

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