Commentary: Injury risk worth the opportunity just to play


Athletes appreciate chance to compete, even if their seasons were cut short 

Columbia River quarterback Mason Priddy left the game in the first quarter Saturday, then he left Kiggins Bowl to seek more medical attention.

It was his collarbone.

It turned out, it was the end of his high school football career.

His first priority? Return to Kiggins Bowl, to support his teammates, to be there for them as they closed out their game against Hockinson.

Mason Priddy said playing in just a couple of games before he was injured was a lot better than playing in no games this football season. Photo by Mike Schultz
Mason Priddy said playing in just a couple of games before he was injured was a lot better than playing in no games this football season. Photo by Mike Schultz

This was no storybook ending for Columbia River. Hockinson held off River for a 16-6 victory. And it certainly is no storybook ending for the starting quarterback. 

But at least there was a beginning to the story. 

Priddy played two full games and a little less than a quarter of football his senior season.

“It was much better than having zero,” Priddy said. “I’m just thankful for every single snap. Simple as that.”

Athletes in all sports know the risks. Those risks are greater in contact sports such as football and soccer. Athletes put stress on their knees on the volleyball courts, the basketball courts. Running the bases in baseball and softball, sliding — those can be risky, as well.

During the abbreviated sports schedules that Southwest Washington high school athletes are competing in these days, there are no state playoffs to hope for, no chance at a run for a state championship.

In football, for the 2A and 1A schools, it is a five-game sprint of a season. For the 4A and 3A teams, it is six or seven games.

That’s it.

On Friday and Saturday, I saw three injuries that ended seasons. These could have happened in Week 2 or 3 of a traditional football season, in September. But after all that the athletes have endured in the last year, these injuries just seemed, I don’t know, even more … cruel.  

Still, no regrets.

“Not only did I get to play, but I also got accepted into a new family,” said Liam Mallory, a junior now at Union.

Mallory has played varsity football since his freshman year at Hockinson. His family moved over the offseason, and Mallory was looking forward to making his mark at Union.

He did just that.

“I think I’ll be a Union Titan forever,” Mallory said. “I’ve built relationships with the coaches and the seniors I’ve only played a game and a quarter with. I still remember every little thing we did, everything we said in practice.”

Liam Mallory of Union, surrounded by trainers and coaches from both teams Friday, suffered a knee injury. “The game’s the game. What can you do? But I still enjoyed every single moment of it,” Mallory said. Photo by Mike Schultz
Liam Mallory of Union, surrounded by trainers and coaches from both teams Friday, suffered a knee injury. “The game’s the game. What can you do? But I still enjoyed every single moment of it,” Mallory said. Photo by Mike Schultz

Mallory is still waiting on an official diagnosis for the knee injury he sustained, but he knows there will be no miracle recovery to be back for any of Union’s games this winter/spring. The hope is to be recovered in time to play in the traditional fall season his senior year.

“This year has been really tough,” Mallory said of the ups and downs associated with the pandemic. 

He and the Titans prepared for a season when there was no season and just kept working in hopes of some sort of season

Then, football was given the green light. 

He was ready. So were his teammates. Union beat defending state champion Camas in Week 1 of the 4A schedule. Mallory made some big plays to help the Titans.

“I really enjoyed all those small things with the new guys, and being part of the Union-Camas rivalry for the first time,” he said.

After Saturday’s win over Mountain View, Union coach Rory Rosenbach addressed the team in the post-game meeting in the end zone. While Rosenbach did not know the extent of the injury, he knew enough that Mallory would not be returning to play this season.

Rosenbach thanked Mallory for being on this ride with the Titans all the way through the pandemic. That meant a lot to Mallory.

“The game’s the game. What can you do?” Mallory asked. “But I still enjoyed every single moment of it.”

On Saturday, Hockinson’s Jake Talarico went down with what appeared to be a significant knee injury. His coach, Rick Steele, said on Monday that they are still waiting on official word but with two games left in the 2A season …

Hockinson’s Jake Talarico, shown here in Week 2, had a strong start to the season before an injury in Week 3. Photo by Mike Schultz
Hockinson’s Jake Talarico, shown here in Week 2, had a strong start to the season before an injury in Week 3. Photo by Mike Schultz

Steele hurts for any injury, for any player, in any season. But he also knows how much the players love the game.

And during these days, the game is only a part of the recovery process.

“It just makes the world seem a little bit normal in a time period when everything has been abnormal,” Steele said.

Teens need to be doing the things they love. Sports. Arts. Science. Whatever the passion, young people need to get back to life.

Those who love football, they understand the risk of injury. And this year, with just that five-game schedule, well, it might be more important than a 14-week season with a state title on the line.

“It’s just the ability to go out and do something, spend time with their friends, be outside, and be a part of something,” Steele said.

Hockinson is preparing for its biggest game of the season when the Hawks take on Ridgefield in a battle of undefeated teams this Saturday. Here come the Hawks and the Spudders, battling for a 2A Greater St. Helens League title, for bragging rights.

That’s normal. I mean, every year, teams play for league titles.

This year, perhaps more importantly, the athletes are playing simply because they can. They all understand nothing is guaranteed.

“Is it worth it? Most definitely,” Steele said. “And I would say every kid on our team would say it’s worth it. The kids just want to play and be normal. From that aspect, it’s worth it, big-time.”

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About The Author

Paul Valencia joins ClarkCountyToday.com after more than two decades of newspaper experience. He became the face of high school sports coverage in Clark County during his 17 years at The Columbian. Before moving to Vancouver, Paul worked at Oregon daily newspapers in Pendleton, Roseburg, and Salem. A graduate of David Douglas High School in Portland, Paul enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving three years as a soldier/journalist. He and his wife Jenny recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. They have a son who has a passion for karate and Minecraft. Paul’s hobbies include: Watching the Raiders play football, reading about the Raiders playing football, and waiting to watch and read about the Raiders playing football.

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