Local football officials aim to keep players safe this season

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MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - William Anderson is the second high school football player to die in Mississippi on the football field this season. The tragedies have prompted high schools across the state, including Meridian, to take a closer look at the health and safety of student athletes.

"You need to know your athletes. You have to pay attention the whole time,” says Meridian High School head athletic trainer, Chad Acton.

Acton says there's more to his job than just handing out water and wrapping injuries. He says it's his job to make sure students are healthy enough to play.

"We are basically the doctors on the field. A lot of people think, 'Oh, he just tapes ankles; that's it.' No there's a lot that we do. You have to make sure you are paying attention to your kids. You have to know your kids and know the kids who are on that threshold where you really need to make sure if anything goes wrong to put a stop to it,” says Acton.

Meridian athletic director, Chuck Butler, says it's important to have trainers on the field because coaches are not trained to handle medical emergencies.

"We have a limited amount of exposure to simple medical things. We are just not qualified to make calls on anything that could be life threatening,” says Butler.

Butler says trainers can't always prevent every tragedy, but are there to make the game safer for the players.

"We do everything that we can up-front to try and avoid these situations. We can't avoid everything. There's things that are going to happen, but we are going to do our best to be ahead of the game as far as heat exposure and concussions, etc.,”explains Butler.

Byhalia High School football player Dennis Mitchell died last month after collapsing during a game.

Authorities investigating that case say Mitchell had cocaine in his system when he died.