HARTSVILLE, SC (WIS) - The news of Ronald Rouse's death spread quickly throughout the Hartsville community.
Many knew the 18-year-old through his love of football. Rouse was a senior defensive lineman for Hartsville High School.
"We've never had anything like this happen in Hartsville, South Carolina," said Beverly Levieer. "Especially at a football game."
During Friday's Homecoming game against Crestwood High, Rouse was seen clenching his chest and then collapsed. After regaining some strength, the 6-foot, 3-inch, 350-pound player was helped off the field where he collapsed again.
Four doctors and two athletic trainers performed CPR until he was taken to the hospital.
The game was suspended at halftime. The community learned later that night Rouse died at the hospital.
"Being a fellow athlete it really frightened me," said Coker College basketball player Teon Beckett. "I'm very sorry to hear that someone so young had to go so early."
The Darlington County Coroner said Rouse was born with an enlarged heart and died from a sudden cardiac arrhythmia.
A Darlington County School District spokesperson told WIS the district was unaware of Rouse's enlarged heart. The spokesperson said, to their knowledge, an enlarged heart is not something that can be detected through a normal football physical.
"He was our boy," Patricia Belin said. "It seemed like he had a future ahead of him, my heart goes out to his family.
"You never know when it's your time," said Tasha Mitchell.
A member of the Hartsville High School marching band made stickers for the community to wear to honor Rouse.
"Ronald was a joy to know," said Hartsville High Principal Dr. Charlie Burry in a statement released to the media.
"He was a big, friendly guy who enjoyed school, playing ball, and life. He was also an intelligent young man, whose perspective on life had some unusual depth for someone of his age."
"Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, his teammates and coaches, his classmates and teachers, and all of his many friends. Our Red Fox Family will miss him greatly."
An account is named in honor of Ronald Rouse at the Heritage Community Bank, located at 206 South Fifth Street.
"The community, what we have to do in times of crisis, is come together and lift this family up. Let them know that they have support and to cherish Mr. Rouse's life. It is an outpouring of support that would make you proud in such a tragic and difficult time," said State Senator Gerald Malloy.
Other businesses in the area are raising money for the cause. Ruth's Drive-In will be collecting donations at their restaurant located at 659 West Carolina Avenue.
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