Chris Hrabe @chrabeBy Chris Hrabe

In this week’s edition of the High School Spotlight, we feature one of longest tenured coaches in the area with a message about how safe high school football really is.

“It is absolutely the safest time to play football,” Pat Mahoney says.

Mahoney is in his 22nd season as head coach of De Smet Jesuit High School Football.

“I think every mother probably has concerns about the well-being of their children…Football being the classic combat, contact, collision sport that it is…there have been more people questioning whether their children should play football.”

Mahoney played his college football for Boston University, but concussions were hardly a thought in 1970.

“I come from an era where broken necks happened. Concussions heal, its a bruise that will heal. But a kid goes in with a low tackle and what I have a problem with is the new Seahawk tackling methodology – that’s low shoulder tacking with the head behind, and again, I come from a generation with people who had broken necks because they did that,” Mahoney explains.

And with new concerns have come new health protocols.

“We have trainers on the sideline. We have doctors on the sideline. Coaches are not in charge,” Mahoney says. “If a kid comes off the field and he has any symptoms at all of a concussion, it’s up to the trainer. If the trainer tells me he’s done, he’s done.”

Junior fullback Ryan Russell sustained the first concussion of his career just a few weeks ago.

“I’ve been playing since first grade and never had a concussion. I never thought I’d have a concussion and this year I got one, just from the right spot, the right hit,” Russell says. “It’s just a lingering injury. You think you should feel better soon but, it is just a really slow process and I’m sure once I get better and cleared by the trainer and doctor I’ll be good to go. “

Russell expects clearance to suit back up for Mahoney and learn under his “HIT” program.

“Our slogan this year is Honor, Integrity, Trust. And it’s there for a reason –  it’s ‘HIT’.”

“…We were 1-9 last year” Mahoney says. “But at the end of the year our kids were hugging each other and there were cheers because it was over. If we had gone by just wins and losses it would have been just a horrible season last year, but it wasn’t. We were very productive we got better each game, they loved each other, they held on to each other, and at the end of the year that was a winning season as far as I’m concerned.”

Mahoney makes a new motto for his team every year. He says the De Smet reputation has made it’s way to D-1 programs.

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