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November 11, 2013

Day before playoff game, 2 high school football players killed in crash

SHARON, Pa. — A day before they were to compete in a high school football playoff game, two Sharon High players were killed in a car crash that also left a third man dead.

The tragedy has been felt throughout this western Pennsylvania town, where community members gathered Sunday night for a vigil to remember those who were killed.

Police said Corey Swartz, 18, was driving with three teammates when he crossed the median on a four-lane road and hit a pickup truck head-on.

He was killed along with one of his passengers, 17-year-old Evan Gill, 17, and the pickup driver, John Zdelar Jr., 50, of Brookfield, Pa.

Twin brothers Craig and Greg Osmon, 17, also passengers in Swartz’s car, were injured and required surgery. Zdelar’s passengers – his 10-year-old stepson and another 12-year-old boy – were also injured.

The occupants of both vehicles had been spectators at two other playoff games before the wreck happened at about 10 p.m. Friday.

After the crash, Sharon High’s District 10 AA playoff game in Erie, Pa., was canceled Saturday night and moved to Monday.

At Sunday's vigil, the Rev. James A. Reardon, himself a former Sharon player, said Corey and Evan will "always be remembered as the heart and soul of the Sharon football team."

"I'm not going to sugar-coat any of this at all. It's going to hurt for some time," he said. "There's nothing in life that's easy. (These) accidental (deaths) Friday changed a lot of lives."

A day earlier, grief counselors and ministers met with Sharon players and coaches, band members and cheerleaders. Some arrived at the school Saturday for what they thought was the departure to Sharon's scheduled playoff game, having not heard about the accident.

"We wanted all the kids to get the accurate story," said Mike Calla, Sharon schools superintendent. "There was a lot of misinformation on social media."

Police are still investigating the cause of the crash, but they said alcohol, drugs and texting were not factors.

Details for this story were reported by The Sharon (Pa.) Herald.

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