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Lacerated Spleen Caused NJ High School Football Player's Death

WASHINGTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) --  An autopsy has revealed that a lacerated spleen was to blame for the death of a high school football player in New Jersey, officials said Monday.

Warren Hills Regional High School star quarterback Evan Murray died Friday after suffering an on-field injury.

The Morris County Medical Examiner's Office released the following statement on Monday afternoon:

"On September 26, 2015, Doctor Ronald Suarez, the Morris County Medical Examiner, conducted an autopsy on Evan Murray. The autopsy determined that the cause of death was massive intra-abdominal hemorrhage (massive internal bleeding) due to a laceration of the spleen. During the examination, Dr. Suarez determined that the spleen was abnormally enlarged thus making it more susceptible to injury. There was no evidence of head trauma or heart disease. The manner of death was accidental."

Murray walked off the field with the help of some teammates Friday night after taking a hit in the backfield during the team's third game of the season against Summit High School at the Blue Streaks' stadium in Washington Township, Warren County.

"The last play before the half, he got hit and we helped him to the sideline," senior tackle Oscar Vega said.

According to a witness, Murray took a hit and walked to the sideline under his own power. He later collapsed and was taken away in an ambulance.

Lacerated Spleen Caused NJ High School Football Player's Death

Murray – an honors student who also played baseball and basketball – later died at Morristown Medical Center in Morristown.

As CBS2's Christine Sloan reported, students at Warren Hills were still in shock and wiping away tears Monday.

"No one was expecting it at all," one student said.

Students returned to classes Monday, and filled Murray's usual parking spot with balloons, writing messages in chalk, and praying at the memorial covered in flowers. Friends said the family's grief was unimaginable.

"It's difficult to watch my children have to deal with it," said parent Renee Wimmer. "It's hard for them to process."

Wimmer's children were at the game Friday night.

"They saw him get hit hard, but he walked off the field on his own power, and later on the sideline, he collapsed and was taken in the ambulance," Wimmer said.

The events that led to Murray's injury were not completely clear Monday.

"He was in the game and took a hit and walked off the field, then was taken by ambulance. Beyond that, nobody seems to know," said Father Guy Selvester, with St. Joseph Catholic Church.

When asked if contact with a player on the opposing team was the catalyst, Warren Hills Schools Supt. Gary Bowen said: "I don't know the answer to that. I would suspect so, but I can't comment with assurance on that."

On Saturday, coaches, students and community members gathered at the school's football field for a memorial. It featured a letter from the teen's girlfriend that read in part "Thank you for being the love of my life."

"Evan was a great leader. He was a class act kid," said Murray's baseball coach Mike Quinto. "The young gentleman that he was. Not just an athlete, but the person that he was, it was more important than the athlete he was. He carried himself well everywhere he went. That's the key thing about him."

Classmate and friend Taylor Coughlin, a junior who appears to have set up a GoFundMe page to assist the family, told that Murray was an "amazing kid." The page said Murray was hit while in the backfield.

"He was an amazing student and an amazing athlete. He stood out in his athletics, his academics -- everything," she told the website.

Support poured for family and community poured in on the school's Facebook page and on Twitter:

Players from Summit High School, who were playing against Warren Hills Friday, were also mourning.

"He got hit a few times before, you know, things got bad with him," said player Dan Serrano.

The superintendent did not confirm that Murray was hit in the game, but said a medical staff was on the sidelines – including a school physician and a trainer.

Parent and emergency medical technician Diane Hensle was not at the game, but she was heartbroken.

"As an EMT, I take care of football players on the field," Hensle said. "I am sure everyone did everything that they can, and I'm supporting everyone."

Published reports said Murray was the third high school football player to die from an on-field injury just this month.

Tyrell Cameron, a high school athlete from Winnsboro, Louisiana, died on Sept. 4, shortly after being taken to the hospital with an injury suffered in the fourth quarter of a football game, CBS affiliate WWL-TV, New Orleans reported. He reportedly broke his neck.

And Ben Hamm, a football player at a Christian high school in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, died Sept. 19 after suffering a head injury in a football game eight days earlier, CBS affiliate KWTV-TV, Oklahoma City reported.

Murray's wake will be held Wednesday at Safe Discovery Church in Washington Township. His funeral will be held there on Thursday.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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