Del. high school football game resumes after referee collapses, dies on field

The high school football community in Delaware is mourning a longtime referee who collapsed and died during a game.

Mike Abbatiello, 75, collapsed on the Woodbridge High School field during the team's game against Caravel on Friday, the Delaware News Journal reported.

The game stopped. Umpire Jeff Ford performed CPR, but Abbatiello was already unconscious and without a pulse. After the ambulance pulled away, the teams and members of the Del-Mar-Va Football Officials Association huddled.

Nine minutes later, the News Journal reported, the game resumed.

"As a group, we were there for the kids," head linesman Jim Ferguson told the newspaper. "We had an important game to do. We felt we had to finish the game for the kids, and actually I think we did it for Mike, too. I think Mike would have wanted us to finish the game."

Woodbridge went on to defeat Caravel, 21-6, advancing to Saturday's Division II championship against Wilmington Friends.

This week, members of the officials group gathered to sign the game ball to give to Abbatiello's family, according to the News Journal. Abbatiello, who served in the Marine Corps and was a longtime teacher and coach in Rocky Point, N.Y., retired to Ocean View, Del., with his wife in 2002.

"Mike came to us with a wealth of information and immediately was involved in helping teach the game to our new officials," Ford, the umpire, told the News Journal. "Absolutely, we were tickled to have him."