LAURINBURG — Pray for Jaylend.
From T-shirts to trending hashtags on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, the message uplifting Jaylend Ratliffe has resounded across the county this week following an ATV accident that has left the standout Scotland High quarterback and Georgia Tech recruit in critical condition.
And on a rainy Thursday night, about 400 people came together under the roof of the school’s gymnasium and did one thing — they prayed.
It didn’t matter that rain kept the vigil from the football field, where Ratliffe made a name for himself. It didn’t matter that Dakota Holland, Ratliffe’s friend involved in that same ATV accident, was on crutches and could barely maneuver himself into the crowded bleachers. It didn’t matter that coach Richard Bailey, who has posted himself beside Ratliffe’s bed this entire week, had to return home because the first official practice for the Fighting Scots takes place today. Everyone had one thing on their mind — pray for Jaylend.
Though the crowd cheered each time Jaylend’s name was spoken by those taking to a microphone to wish him well, the crowd let out its biggest applause of the night when Bailey was notified that an emergency surgery had been a success.
Ratliffe remains in critical condition, but was stable following the surgery performed late Thursday to relieve pressure on his brain. Doctors had taken him off the ventilator on Wednesday, but put back on late that night, sources say.
An MRI scan performed on Ratliffe Wednesday morning did not show any obvious spinal damage. He was talkative and responsive most of that day, according to a source, before suffering the setback.
The crowd, wearing Scotland colors or shirts bearing Ratliffe’s now-famous No. 2, almost blended in with the blue bleachers inside the gym. Many shirts had “Pray for Jaylend” stitched across the back.
According to source information, Ratliffe and teammate Dakota Holland were riding together though the woods on Holland’s ATV about 4:30 p.m Tuesday when Ratliffe lost control of the vehicle, causing it to overturn. The two crashed in some woods near Ratliffe’s home. Both were conscious and alert on the scene, sources said.
Holland was treated and released the same day from Scotland Memorial Hospital. According to a source close to the situation, Holland checked back into Scotland Memorial Wednesday afternoon for another check-up. He was on crutches on Thursday, but sat in the front row of the bleachers while the ceremony took place. The crowd cheered loudly every time his name was mentioned, too.
The most emotional of speakers was Scotland coach Richard Bailey, who paced back and forth as he quoted The Bible, prayed for Ratliffe’s well-being, and praised the senior for being a model representative for his school. Bailey was also quick to mention just how appreciative he was of the community and its support for his player.
“Everybody here, their mothers, brothers, cousins, aunts, and uncles went to Scotland High School,” Bailey said. “There’s a lot of blood sweat and tears poured into this school and this community and it’s a special place, especially at a time like this.”
There were several moments when Bailey had to stop, collect himself, wipe away tears that were forming at the brim of his eyes, and continue his speech. With each stop, the crowd gave him a huge round of applause as they supported the leader of Scotland football.
This week has taken its toll on Bailey, as he has rarely left Ratliffe’s side since the saga began earlier this week. Practice will resume Friday morning, so the school can remain eligible to play this season.
“Right now I’m feeling a little guilty that I’m not there with him, especially since he’s had to go into surgery,” Bailey said.
Once the vigil ended and everyone began to file out, numerous people walked up to Bailey, as well as Dakota Holland, to give their support. Both were embraced, hugged or shook hands with countless individuals as Scotland County ultimately rallies under one cause — pray for Jaylend.
“It’s great to see people come together and try to lift Jaylend up in prayer. Hopefully, God is listening,” Bailey said.
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.