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Michigan referee dies after suffering heart attack during game

Published: Nov. 2, 2020 at 10:58 PM EST
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SAND CREEK, Mich. (WTVG) - A high school football referee has died after he collapsed during a playoff game Friday night at Sand Creek High School in Lenawee County.

Jerry Hoffman, 78, was one of the officials for the game between Sand Creek and Pittsford when he suddenly dropped to the ground during the first quarter.

“The way he grabbed his chest and laid down, we knew that something was wrong,” said Jackson Marsh, a senior on the Aggies football team.

Hoffman, from Morenci, was rushed to a nearby hospital after suffering cardiac arrest. He did not survive.

Moments after Hoffman was taken from the field, players from both teams took to the field and joined hands in a circle to pray for Hoffman.

“We just walked on the field. We knew exactly what needed to happen and we just did it,” said Marsh, who led the prayer. “As I prayed, the words came straight from the Lord. It was easy, there was no hesitation whatsoever.”

For several years, Hoffman served as a little league coach and referee for high school sports.

“Before the game, our local flag crew was talking to him and he told them he was 78-years-old and wanted to keep doing this until he was 80,” said Sid Disbrow, assistant coach for Swan Creek. “He was dedicated to the sport and dedicated to the kids.”

Sand Creek Superintendent Steve Laundra said he was proud of how the players and fans handled such a tragic loss.

“It was a proud moment, but it was a proud moment during a very distressing time for Jerry,” said Laundra. “We would give that moment up to have Jerry back, no doubt.”

According to his obituary, Hoffman also served as a pastor of Canandaigua Community Church.

“Knowing that he is in a better place brings joy to my heart, as well,” Marsh said.

Funeral arrangements for Hoffman are scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday at Morenci Bible Fellowship Church.

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