JOPLIN, Mo. — Just five weeks after collapsing during a high school football game, a Southwest Missouri referee returned to the gridiron Friday night.

Scott Cranford credits quick action by the medical staff and the camaraderie of a pastime he loves for saving his life that night.

Photo courtesy: Scott Michael Cranford.

Last Friday night brought laughter, hugs, and smiles. Five weeks ago, it was a different story.

“It was terrifying,” said Jessica Cranford, Scott’s wife.

During a high school football game Scott was refereeing, he collapsed on the field.

Photo courtesy: Scott Michael Cranford.

“I ended up with a massive block in two main arteries of the heart, and they ended up having to do an emergency surgery on me, and they transferred me to Kansas City from Freeman,” said Scott Cranford.

Cranford says on the field, his heart had to be restarted.

As medical staff from both teams, the E.M.S. crew, and even a cardiologist who was at the game as a fan, the community support was overwhelming.

“But then you see the other pictures, of the prayers, and it was just surreal. There’s no other way to describe it. It was just amazing and scary all at the same time,” said Jessica Cranford.

Friday night, Scott returned to Junge Stadium for the first time since that night for the coin toss between Joplin and Carthage.

And while there would be a winner, Scott says it’s the support and the love from the night of his heart attack through now that represents the best of sports.

“It’s about hugs, handshakes, it’s humanity, it is coming together and helping one another, and I was on the receiving end of that, and to feel that love and to feel all the prayers was everything. Life-changing,” said Scott Cranford.

Cranford says he’s hoping to be back on the field before the end of the football season, but admits that may be an ambitious goal. However, he’ll definitely be back next year.

“I look forward to coming back next year. I don’t think I’ve been told of any restrictions after I’m able to rehab,” said Scott Cranford.

Or maybe even in another sport, like basketball maybe?

“You know, the funny part about basketball is it is just a little bit more physical on the running side for officials. Not always, but I would say yes, on the court, and…I don’t think she wants me to. But I have looked into volleyball,” said Scott Cranford.