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Students return _ minus one

Citrus High students and faculty went through the motions of a routine school day Monday, but everywhere were signs that it was not a normal day.

Some students cried softly in the hallways.

The junior varsity football team did not practice.

The morning announcements spoke of memorial services.

Days after the shocking death of freshman Chip Stoskopf, the Citrus High community is trying to carry on without benefit of a logical explanation.

Stoskopf, 14, died Friday at Munroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala, less than 24 hours after he collapsed apparently from a heart attack during his first play of a junior varsity football game at Lake Weir High School.

Preliminary autopsy reports showed cardiac arrest, but gave no evidence for its cause.

And that hasn't made Stoskopf's death any easier for classmates and family to accept.

"I think it's totally unfair," said Frank Roberts, 14, a teammate and close friend of Stoskopf. "You don't think a child at the age of 14 should die like that. My first feeling was rage. I just wanted to hit someone.

"I didn't believe it," Roberts said. "When I was over at (his mother's) house and I was in Chip's room, if Chip had walked through the door I would have believed it."

Three days of introspection have not made things any clearer.

"I can't rationalize it," Roberts said. "It's scary. He's 14; I'm 14. If he can die . . . I've always lived by God and said that if God wants you, he'll take you. I've always preached that, but when I was on that field, I learned it."

A small number of students talked about their feelings with guidance counselors Monday. Having the weekend to sort through feelings made being at school Monday a little easier, Citrus High principal Ed Staten said.

"Friday evening was a much more critical time," Staten said, referring to the Hurricanes' varsity home football game against Clermont, which was the first opportunity for students to gather after learning of Stoskopf's death earlier in the day. "When they got here (Monday) they already knew and had worked through that initial shock."

But Staten took precautions Monday by issuing memos to the faculty alerting them to the emotions and possible reactions students might have.

"We passed out some materials to the teachers asking them to be aware of people who were especially close to Chip, members of the JV football team," Staten said. "It was some information and tips on how to deal with the kids.

"Every once in a while you happen to see a kid standing in a corner quietly crying. For many of them, this is the first time they've had to face their own mortality. But many of our kids here have had to face it all too often."

Two other members of the Citrus High junior varsity football team died in the last 16 months. Paul Schrencengost drowned in June 1991. And in September 1991, Mark Jenkins committed suicide, leaving a note that said he was despondent over not being able to play sports because of a broken arm sustained in a JV game.

Memorial services for Stoskopf will be today, with a viewing from 2-5 p.m. at Davis Funeral Home in Inverness and an informal memorial service at 6 p.m. at the Citrus High stadium.

Anyone may speak at the memorial service, where junior varsity football coach Ken Berry said he will present Stoskopf's mother, Connie Denney, with her son's black No. 25 game jersey.

The junior varsity team will attach stickers bearing the number 25 to the backs of players' helmets to honor Stoskopf in the team's final three games of the season.

Several donations already have been made to the Chip Stoskopf Memorial Fund, which will go toward purchasing materials for Citrus County students with learning disabilities or dyslexia. Stoskopf was dyslexic, and Denney has requested that donations be made in lieu of flowers.

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