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‘Friday Night Lights, Baby!’ For Mahar, senior wait was well worth it 9/8/22

‘Friday Night Lights, Baby!’

For Mahar, senior wait was well worth it


By Kevin Taylor

Alma Schools 


Jaden Mahar doesn’t look anything like the conventional defensive lineman. 


And that, says Alma Defensive Coordinator Kirk Benson, is what makes him such a special football player. 


Mahar had so many tackles in the backfield at Siloam Springs last week, that he practically became part of the Panthers’ huddle. 


Mahar led Alma’s revamped defensive unit with 10 tackles, including seven TFLs (tackles for loss) during the team’s 38-7 victory. 


“We’re focusing on speed and we’re focusing on the weak points of the offensive line,” Mahar said. “We know where to go, we know where to run. We know who to punish.


“Whenever times get tough, we try to adapt and try to overcome as any good team would.”


The Airedales are 2-0 for the first time since 2014. And the first two games haven’t been close. 


The defense is allowing just 83 yards on the ground and just one touchdown per game. 


It’s early, but it didn’t take first-year defensive line coach Kirk Benson long to understand how Mahar ticks. 


“He’s bought into what we’re doing and he believes in the technique we’re teaching him,” Benson said. “We’ve really freed him up. A lot of those guys, like Jaden and Paul (Eubanks), shouldn’t be 5-8 linemen, but they are because of the scheme we’re doing.”


“Coach Benson knows what he’s doing,” Mahar said. “He knows the technique you need for this specific defense. He knows us; he knows our strengths and our weaknesses. He knows what we can do and what we can’t.


“We play to our strengths.”


Mahar’s stats through two games look like something from a video game. He has 14 tackles in all, including nine TFLs. 


“We’re not asking him to stay there and get blocked, we give him an assignment and his job is to get there as fast as he can,” Benson said. “It fits in perfectly with what we’re doing.”


“Jaden actually started the playoff game (against Texarkana) his sophomore year,” Alma head coach Rusty Bush said. 


Mahar didn’t start a single game as a junior. 


“He’s one of those kids you root for,” Bush said. “He’s put in the time, played a lot on Monday nights (junior varsity).”


“Man, to be an Airedale, it feels amazing,” Mahar said. “The Green and Gold, you just feel so confident on that field. You know what you’re going to do; you know what you need to do. 


“To help the community win some games, it’s amazing.”


It’s a lot of fun to run through the inflatable ‘A’ before home games, too. 


“My sophomore and junior years, it was worth everything to get to where I am now,” Mahar said. “Those junior varsity games, they were fun, and I feel like I learned a lot.


“But Fright Night Lights… it’s amazing, baby! Everyone’s cheering you on, and to be able to contribute to that is even better.”


In addition to the 23 TFLs (Alma had but 30 in all of 2022), Mahar and the Airedales had already had as many quarterback sacks through two games (seven) as they had for the entire 2021 season.