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updated: 10/17/2013 9:57 PM

The safety issue can't be masked

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  • benetgq_3na081203br PHoto0249832 BRIAN HILL PHOTO dupage dit br cd @# 39 ////// Benet football helmet

    benetgq_3na081203br PHoto0249832 BRIAN HILL PHOTO dupage dit br cd @# 39 ////// Benet football helmet


When dealing with athlete safety, nothing should be off the table.

Before scattering the field again, "Eyes on Five" first looks outside the box in taking on the task of reducing the number of football player concussions.

1. Behind the mask:

When looking at the decreasing number of players on area football rosters, the fear of concussions can't be ignored.

One of the possible solutions being researched is new helmets designed to do a better job stabilizing the brain during the most vicious hits. But is that type of thinking pointing folks in the wrong direction?

Some researchers believe LESS equipment may be the answer. Is the elimination of helmets a possible solution?

I say absolutely not, but it does bring up an interesting point.

Without helmets players would be far less likely to lead with the head because it'd remove the assumption that helmets make them invincible. Less leading with the head, fewer concussions.

Or maybe not. Studies conflict, but many show that rugby -- a brutal contact sport most often played without helmets -- has a concussion rate similar to football.

The research isn't definitive enough to consider eliminating helmets. But what about eliminating face masks?

The result might be interesting. The helmet still would provide the needed head protection, but the lack of a face mask may prevent players from using their heads as missiles.

The theory is that as soon as players grow tired of broken noses and split lips, they'll stop leading with their heads.

Don't worry ... face masks aren't going anywhere. It's obviously not a realistic option.

The idea of thinking outside the box when it comes to player safety, however, is a must.

2. A new league:

The Suburban Christian Conference's loss soon will become the Metro Suburban Conference's gain.

Last school year Aurora Central, Chicago Christian, Guerin, IC Catholic Prep, St. Edward, Walther Christian Academy and Wheaton Academy collectively decided to leave the SCC and join the seven-member MSC. Five of the MSC schools -- Elmwood Park, Fenton, Glenbard South, Ridgewood and Riverside-Brookfield -- play football, thus creating a 12-team league in that sport only.

Starting next season there will be two MSC football divisions. One consists of Aurora Central, Fenton, Glenbard South, IC Catholic Prep, Riverside-Brookfield and Wheaton Academy. The other division includes Chicago Christian, Elmwood Park, Guerin, Ridgewood, St. Edward and Walther Christian.

In addition to playing the other five teams within their own division, there will be crossovers in Week 3 and Week 4. Fenton, for example, will face Elmwood Park and Ridgewood in the crossover weeks to continue playing traditional MSC opponents.

So what do you think?

As it stands now, Glenbard South (7-0) is the lone MSC team with a clinched playoff spot. Fenton (4-3) is the only other team with a shot at the playoffs, but the Bison likely need to win their last two games.

In the SCC, Aurora Central and St. Edward likely have sealed postseason berths thanks to five wins and an abundance of playoff points. IC Catholic Prep (4-3) and Wheaton Academy (3-4) remain alive for the playoffs.

Will the new MSC become a league of worldbeaters? Of course not, but the goal is quality football competition.

The departing SCC schools did not enjoy a satisfying competitive field among the five football powers they're leaving behind, but the MSC appears to be a solid landing point.

3. A good loss:

In terms of losses, regular season is definitely better than postseason.

The real question, though, is whether or not late-season losses help -- and humble -- teams heading into the playoffs.

Benet, which last week suffered its first loss of the season to Nazareth, is about to find out. Unbeaten until last week, the Redwings have two weeks to learn their lessons and make another strong charge into the postseason.

"The loss exposed some things for us," said Redwings coach Pat New. "In a way it's good because it showed what we need to work on."

Recent history shows championship-caliber teams often perform well after late-season losses.

Four-time defending state champion Montini lost in Week 7 last year and in Week 9 in 2009. In 2008 Class 8A runner-up Hinsdale Central lost in Week 9 while 2A champion Immaculate Conception fell in Week 8.

In 2007 Glenbard North lost in Week 8 but recovered to reach the 8A final. Naperville North, meanwhile, suffered a heartbreaking triple-overtime defeat at the hands of Wheaton Warrenville South in Week 9.

Despite losing their first game and the DuPage Valley Conference title all in the regular-season finale, the Huskies came back to win the 2007 Class 8A championship.

A strong argument can be made that no loss is a good loss. In terms of the playoffs, though, there's still time for Benet to recover.

4. The best:

It's no secret Glenbard North running back Justin Jackson stands among the state's elite players. Anyone who witnessed last week's 400-yard, 5-touchdown performance against Naperville Central would agree with the assertion.

After shattering by 50 yards his own DuPage Valley Conference record for rushing yards in a game, a common theme arose during conversations with league coaches this week.

Jackson may be the best player in DVC history.

It's a bold statement considering the talent that's emerged from the league. We're not that far removed from past record-breaking running backs Dan Dierking, from WW South, and Naperville Central grad Ryan Clifford.

The apples and oranges of the argument make it impossible to determine, especially while Jackson's still at Glenbard North.

If you say Jackson's better than Dierking and Clifford, then what about fellow running back Chris Brown, who graduated from Naperville North in 1999? Brown had nowhere near the numbers Jackson does, but he had a successful seven-year NFL career.

Naperville North teammates Justin McCareins and Glenn Earl also played in the NFL. How do you go about comparing them to Jackson?

And then there's Naperville Central graduate Owen Daniels, now a tight end with the Houston Texans. Can you compare Jackson with a current tight end who was a quarterback in the DVC?

WW South grad Tony Moeaki, a tight end with the Kansas City Chiefs, and retired Indianapolis Colts lineman Ryan Diem, a Glenbard North grad, also figure into the argument. Diem started 150 NFL games and won a Super Bowl ring.

My apologies to the many DVC greats not included in this item, but it's impossible to list everyone. From Scott Dierking to Chuck Long and Kent Graham, there's simply not enough room for all the greats.

Jackson's earned his place among them, but we'll need to save the arguments for later.

5. Stat time:

Of the 256 playoff spots spread among eight football classes, 110 have been filled. Teams have two weeks left to clinch one of the remaining 146 spots through conference championships, six wins, or a sufficient number of wins plus playoff points.

Among DuPage County teams, Benet, Glenbard North, Glenbard South, Glenbard West, Montini, Neuqua Valley, Wheaton North and WW South have clinched playoff spots.

Three teams -- Naperville Central, Waubonsie Valley and Willowbrook -- can seal postseason berths with a win this weekend.

Follow Kevin on Twitter @kevin_schmit

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