By Mark Barnes
The score was just 7-0 with 45 seconds to go in the first quarter but with one play the game effectively was over in Kuna’s 49-6 playoff loss to Bishop Kelly last Friday night. That’s when Kuna’s Boone Bartlome suffered a broken neck while blocking on a play deep in Kavemen territory. Trainers and coaches rushed out to the field.
Coach Lee Leslie said he asked the conscious Boone if he was OK and he responded “Coach, I don’t think so.” Bartlome’s immobile body lay on the field as his parents were called down and the ambulance drove on to the field. A dozen or so emergency workers including a neurosurgeon who happened to be at the game prepped him and got him loaded.
After the game had stopped for 30 minutes, the ambulance drove off and everyone witnessed something they probably never will again. Both teams joined at mid-field, helmets off. They kneeled as Coach Lee Leslie led both teams in a prayer. Bishop Kelly players were familiar with Leslie. He had coached many of the BK players just three years before prior to taking over as Kuna head coach. It was a powerful moment for everyone there.
On Monday at Kuna High School a rally was held for students, teachers and the community concerned about Boone. Coach Lee Leslie said that he had been asked by the family to coordinate information to the public to avoid rumors that had gotten out into the media over the weekend and provide a point of contact for information. He told the standing room only crowd the details of the injury. It was a C4 vertebrae in his neck that was crushed. They put a titanium plate in his neck. He told everyone that until the swelling goes down, it is undetermined the extent of the damage to his spinal cord. Rumors of him moving toes or arms were unfounded as muscle memory can move limbs.
Leslie said that he has heard from players and coaches across the country and that of the approximately 25 kids he has put on a backboard in his 30 years of coaching, primarily as a cautionary measure, this is the most severe injury one of his players has ever suffered.
He then called up Boone’s sister Baily, Boone’s best friend and others who informed the audience about fundraisers, setting up a visitation schedule for friends, and how people could get involved if they wish to. (See how you can help in sidebar.)
Although the Kavemen played strong throughout the rest of the game Friday night, nothing they could do seemed to go right. The very next play back from the delay of game Spencer Trautman fumbled and turned over the ball. Ben Ruwe threw multiple interceptions and was injured later in the game himself. Injuries plagued Kuna throughout the game and many other players were sidelined. Bishop Kelly capitalized on just about every single turnover converting them for touchdowns.
It is somewhat ironic that for those teams ending a successful season, all but one of them will end their season with a loss. Combine that with most senior players who will never play football again it is a recipe for high emotions among the losing team on the field as the clock ticks down to zero. Only last Friday night’s players weren’t crying for the end of their season, they were crying for their brother who was at the hospital. For all they knew, he was fighting for his life. It was a powerful example of the brotherhood that the Kuna team developed over this season under Leslie’s stewardship. Nobody on that field at the end of the game will forget it.
At the rally on Monday Coach Leslie told the crowd, “Everything turned on that one play,” referring to the Bartlome injury. “We were more worried about Boone than the football game.”
The coach then reminded the students that he had said he would take them to a state championship. “I’ll tell you what the state championship is going to be,” Leslie said to the audience. “When he walks into this school, that will be our state championship and that will be plenty for everybody.”
Helping Boone Bartlome
• A Caring Bridge website has been set up where people can offer comments and prayers and get more information about how they can help. Visit www.caringbridge.org, click on visit a site at the top and enter Boone Bartlome’s name. There you can find information about rebuts, where to send donations and other efforts for fundraising.
• The Kuna Football Boosters have set up an account to assist in bringing meals to the family. The website is www.takethemameal.com. Search by the recipients last name “Bartlome” and enter the password “Boone” As of press time already meals have been scheduled for the family through
December 7 but plans are to extend this aid throughout the next year during what is to be expected a prolonged recovery.
• Kuna High School students are organizing a t-shirt sale with donations. The t-shirts will have a silhouette of a cowboy on one side with Boone’s jersey number and a school logo on the other. It is expected that these shirts will sell for $5 each. More information will be published when these t-shirts become available. All proceeds will go to financially aid the family.
• One of Boone’s best friends, Justin Kalousek, is organizing a project to “trick Boone’s truck” so that Boone has something to look forward to when he leaves the hospital. The plan is to paint his truck electric blue with American flags on the roof and tailgate. This is an effort through the Kuna High School student body and are asking for a $2 donation. More information can be accessed through the Caring Bridge website.
• The Kuna Football boosters are coordinating information and setting up links for PayPal
donations on their website www.KunaFootball.com. As of press time it had not been updated.