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Lincoln Prep running back fighting for his lifePhoto Credit: Jeff Stead/PrepsKC

A week after completing an undefeated regular season, and a day before Lincoln Prep was slated to kick off postseason play, the Blue Tigers are faced with possibly the toughest challenge of their young lives.

Israel Gentry, one of the team’s top performers this season, and one of the top running backs in Kansas City, was fighting for his life Thursday night after being involved in an early morning car accident.

Gentry was a passenger in a car that crashed into a tree near 42nd Street and Prospect Avenue about 6:40 a.m. Thursday, according to Kansas City Police.

Gentry and another teen were on their way to school when the crash occurred. The metro area was blanketed with pockets of black ice Thursday morning. Police have not said what led to the one-vehicle accident, however.

Lincoln Prep head coach William Lowe said he was unable to speak on Gentry’s condition due to confidentiality laws but called the junior running back a fighter.

“Israel is one of the toughest kids I’ve ever coached,” Lowe said. “He’s an outstanding player and an even better young man. He’s well-liked by everyone and has a great attitude about life. You never see him without a smile.

According to police, the driver of a silver Honda Civic was traveling north on Prospect when they lost control and hit a tree. The driver was wearing a seat belt and received non life-threatening injuries. The passenger, Gentry, was not.

“Two Kansas City Public Schools students were involved in a serious automobile accident this morning,” district officials said in a statement released on Thursday. “They are enrolled as juniors at Lincoln College Preparatory Academy. KCPS will not be releasing the students’ names or any other details at this time in order to preserve their confidentiality.

“Superintendent Mark Bedell, Lincoln Prep Principal Kristian Foster and their teams are offering their profound concern and support for the students and their loved-ones. KCPS is providing well trained experts to help everyone who is impacted with their social and emotional needs.”

Lincoln Prep was scheduled to take on East at 7 p.m. Friday in the opening round of the Missouri Class 4, District 8 playoffs. The Blue Tigers (9-0) are the No. 1 seed. The Bears (3-5) are seeded eighth.

The teams met in Week 6 Interscholastic League play. Lincoln (4-0 in IL) gave the Bears their only league loss of the season.