PINELAND, TX (KTRE) - A high school football game official died after collapsing while working a junior varsity game in Pineland Thursday night.
Hemphill Athletic Director Tod Stark identified the official as Carl Kegler, 53. Kegler was the brother of former Lufkin ISD School Board member Larry Kegler.
West Sabine ISD Superintendent Mike Pate confirmed the official collapsed while on the sidelines of a game against Hemphill. Stark said that Carl Kegler was an official with the Texas Association of School Officials.
"He played for the Lufkin Panthers from 1979 through 1981," Larry Kegler said. "He thought he was one of the best running backs Lufkin has ever seen."
Jackie Kegler said his brother Carl always thought he was the best athlete in the family and that his favorite hobby behind football was cooking.
Larry Kegler said the only thing keeping the family going after Thursday night's tragedy is that Carl was a Christian and had strong faith.
"I could not be standing here today if it was not for his faith," Larry Kegler said. "It's like one of your children are gone with Carl my brother, but having a strong faith keeps you grounded."
"It was his first game to be an on-field official," Stark said. "You hate to see something like this happen."
After arriving a little late, Carl Kegler checked in with the head official and collapsed to the ground after suffering what paramedics on the scene believed was a seizure, Stark said.
"One of my coaches came over to me and said the new official is on the ground," Stark said. "We went over and he was not responsive." Pate said first responders were at the game and worked on him for several minutes before putting him in an ambulance.
Pineland Police Chief Jeff Richardson said Kegler died while on the way to a hospital. A medical helicopter was on stand-by to transfer Kegler from the Hemphill hospital if needed.
"I talked to our staff and the hospital district," Richardson said. "We were supposed to have an ambulance at the game. We had a lot of calls and it had not made it here yet, but we did have several paramedics in the stands."
Stark said the two teams did not finish the rest of the game, which was canceled. Richardson said they emptied the stands as soon the first responders started performing CPR on Carl Kegler.
The two football teams were moved to the opposite side of the football field before they were sent to their respective locker rooms, Richardson said.
Stark said his team got together on their own afterwards and held a respectful prayer.
"That's character," Stark said. "I was proud of them kids. That's what its all about. That's what we try to build, is character. I can't say enough about the family and our prayers go out towards them."
An official with the Longview Independent School District confirmed that Carl Kegler had been employed there. He left Longview ISD in January of 2013 after working there for a year, the official said.
Late Friday, the Texas Association of Sports Officials Regional President John Ippolito released a statement.
"Kegler was new to us," Ippolito said. "He joined us a few weeks ago. We are saddened by this tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family."
"Kegler was new to us. He joined us a few weeks ago. We are saddened by this tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family."