Football Player’s Death at Practice Stuns Community


A 16-year-old football player from Huntington Beach who collapsed and died while warming up during practice this week had no history of medical problems but was suffering from a lingering cold on the day he died, his parents said Tuesday.

Steven “Scotty” Lang, a junior and Fountain Valley High School varsity football lineman, had completed six 20-yard wind sprints when he went down on one knee and then collapsed, stunning his coaches and some 80 teammates looking on.

As first the coach, then two trainers, and finally paramedics tried to revive the young man, his mother, Cindy, raced onto the field.


“One of the girls from church called me at home and told me he had fainted on the field,” Lang said during an emotional interview at her Huntington Beach home. “Scotty’s coach called me while I was driving over there and [the coach] was crying, and he said he’s still on the field.”

When she arrived, paramedics were working on her son, doing compressions on his chest, Lang recalled. “They asked me if I wanted to ride with him and I said I wanted to be with my boy, and I prayed,” she said.

She rode with her son in an ambulance to Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead Monday about 3:15 p.m.

“I have faith that he’s in heaven with his Father now, and we are the ones that are going to have to get through this,” Lang said. “We know that we are going to see him again.”

A deeply religious teenager from a family of devoted Mormons, Scotty attended seminary every morning before school. At school, he was known as much for his ever-present smile as he was for his hulking presence.

“Scotty was a 6-foot-6, 250-pound puppy dog,” Principal Greg Ernst said. “He had lots of enthusiasm, lots of energy, and lots of friends.”


Ernst added: “I’ve got about 80 football players who are in a world of hurt right now.”

The team is scheduled to play top-seeded Long Beach Polytechnic on Friday night in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs. After an emotional team meeting about whether they wanted to go on with the contest, the team decided to play.

Ernst said Scotty had received a thorough physical before he started practicing with the team in July, and he said he had no clue as to what felled the young man.

“He was the epitome of health,” Ernst said. “There were no restrictions on his file. . . . I don’t know what else we could have done to help Scotty yesterday, or to prepare for what we have to do today.”

Following the school’s crisis plan, teachers made dozens of calls Monday night to notify as much of the staff as possible of Scotty’s death. When students arrived at school Tuesday, crisis counselors were on hand.

“The kids are taking it as you would imagine, unbelievably hard,” school psychologist Lee Huff said.

In addition to football, Scotty loved hip-hop music and water sports and devoted two periods of class a day to the school choir. He was a member of the Troubadours, a group of the two dozen best singers on campus. The group will sing at his funeral Saturday, scheduled for 10 a.m. at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at 8702 Atlanta Ave. in Huntington Beach.


“In his car, he listened to hip-hop until the walls shook,” his father, Steve Lang, said. “He’d leave at 6 a.m. for seminary, and he arrived home at 6 p.m. from football, which didn’t leave him much time to get in trouble, but he tried.”

Scotty “was like a mad professor, always tinkering around with stuff in the garage,” his father said.

A former neighbor in Fountain Valley, Brandon Dela Cruz, 21, said Scotty often used his father’s tools to make his own skateboards in the garage.

The reason for Scotty’s death remained a mystery Tuesday. The Orange County coroner’s office said the cause of his death may take anywhere from four to 12 weeks to determine conclusively.


According to his mother, Scotty had been suffering from a cold, and he told her Monday morning that he still wasn’t feeling better. He took amoxicillin, an antibiotic, that morning, she said.

Amoxicillin, a common antibiotic in the penicillin family, could cause problems in someone with an allergy to penicillin but is not considered dangerous, doctors said.


“Frankly, it’s pretty innocuous,” said Robert Holbrook, an assistant professor of clinical pharmacy at the University of Southern California and the school’s athletic department pharmacist. “It is prescribed commonly to USC athletes, and I know our doctor is completely comfortable with it.”

Head Coach Eric Johnson said that at the time he collapsed, Scotty was in the midst of the team’s normal warmup, which he had done every day since joining the team in July.

“We were running 20-yard wind sprints. You run 20 and just like a football game you take a break for 25 seconds, and then you run. He was about halfway through, about six reps,” Johnson said. “He was smiling and joking” before he collapsed.

Johnson said he doesn’t think the young athlete took any performance-enhancing supplements or drugs. “I’d be real surprised,” the coach said.

On Tuesday, the sense of loss at Fountain Valley High was palpable--from the blue ribbons bearing Scotty’s football jersey number, 75, that many teachers and students wore to the crumpled tissues wadded in their fists as they hugged each other.

“He was one of the most popular kids in school,” said senior Shawna Bowie, 17. “School is so depressing right now. The classes are really just silent. Teachers are hardly teaching, and even the people who didn’t know him are upset.”


Active in both their church and Fountain Valley High School, the Lang family maintains a strong presence in their community. Scotty’s father served as a bishop of the Mormon church adjacent to the school for six years. And during football games, his voice boomed through the stadium over the loudspeaker as he announced the game.


“I think the best compliment I could give Scotty is that he is very much like his father,” said Pam Orgill, whose husband Lynn became bishop at the church when Steve Lang stepped down.

“He is just a very warm, kindhearted boy,” Orgill said. “We used to tease that he would be a great football player if he could just get mean, but he wasn’t mean at heart. He was always smiling. . . . For his size, he could have been a bully but he wasn’t.”

The Lang family had recently moved from Fountain Valley to Huntington Beach, a sprawling white home with several surfboards in the frontyard. On Tuesday, dozens of cars lined their street as family and friends streamed in to comfort and find comfort with Scotty’s family.

With three older sisters--all of whom preceded him at Fountain Valley High--Scotty’s mother, Cindy, joked that he had four mothers.

His two oldest sisters, Marlene and Myrna, have graduated from Brigham Young University, where Scotty dreamed of playing college football. The youngest of his sisters, Chelsea, is still in college there.


“He was so funny, so loving, so precious,” his grieving mother said. “He’d hug me in front of the whole football team.”

“He was never too cool to show his love for other people,” added his sister Chelsea.


Times staff writers Paul McLeod and Martin Henderson contributed to this report.


The lineman’s teammates will take on Long Beach Poly in his memory. B4