AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. – Three players were carted off the field on stretchers with neck injuries in the season opener between Northwestern State and Air Force, yet each of the players was released from the hospital Saturday night.
"Not in 21 years have I seen a game like that, where we've boarded three athletes," said Tony Peck, head athletic trainer at Air Force. "It's bad luck."
Northwestern State free safety Lance Lacoste hurt his neck covering a punt in the third quarter of Air Force's 65-21 win, while Demons offensive guard Josh Cunningham and Falcons cornerback Reggie Rembert were taken off in the first quarter.
Demons staff said Lacoste felt a severe pain in his neck and that Cunningham may have suffered a stinger, along with a concussion.
However both were out of the hospital in time to head back to Natchitoches, La., with the team.
Rembert, one of the top cornerbacks in the Mountain West Conference, had feeling in all extremities after hurting his neck on a tackle. He even raised his right hand and gave a thumbs-up to the crowd as he exited the stadium.
Falcons coach Troy Calhoun wasn't sure how bad Rembert's injury was or when he may be back. The Falcons host BYU next weekend.
"We just have to do all tests," Calhoun said. "You don't mess with something like that."
Three neck injuries in one game was something that Calhoun could hardly believe.
"It opens your eyes — not that they aren't open already," Calhoun said. "This is a phenomenal sport. But it's a physical game."
It was a sentiment shared by Northwestern State coach Bradley Dale Peveto.
"I didn't see exactly what happened, but a lot of times early in the season guys don't keep their heads up when they tackle," Peveto said. "When they get their heads down, that's when neck injuries come into play. Usually, when it's a neck injury, they get hit on the top of their head when their neck is down.
"There were a bunch of them tonight, and hopefully they're going to be very short-lived and these kids are going to be healthy again real soon."
The injury to Rembert rattled the Falcons, who were sluggish in the first half against the FCS Demons. He's one of their team leaders and the sight of him on a backboard shocked them.
"Him going down was pretty big," said defensive back Jon Davis, whose team scored 41 unanswered points in the second half to pull away. "But we just had to step it up and keep playing."