Covering the Land of Lincoln

Moms tackle their sons on the high school football practice field

Brittany Sonderman took aim at her son, Jackson, a junior wide receiver and linebacker at Washington (Illinois) High School. The 37-year-old, who begged to play football when she was in high school but was told to be a cheerleader, was ready to plant him into the landing mat when someone said…

“Is this the guy who gets smoked every year?”

The next sound was Brittany’s pads crashing into her son, which sent both sprawling onto the mat.

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The only thing louder than the thump were the cheers.

“I cooked him pretty good,” Brittany said when reached by phone this week.

When someone asked Jackson whether anything hurt he said, “My pride.”

Brittany Sonderman tackles her son, Jackson, at 'Mom's NIght' at Washington High School in Illinois.  PHOTO PROVIDED

“Mom’s Night” has become a tradition at this high school, about 150 miles southwest of Chicago. And every mom with a son who plays high school football should take note, and then set aside just one minute to watch the video.

The day includes instructional time with the Panthers’ coaching staff and trainer. They talk about every position and the players’ responsibilities, allow the moms to walk through the same plays the team runs, and explain to the moms the school’s protocols for injuries, including concussions.

Each mom is asked whether she wants to pad up to take one crack at her son. Those who volunteer are given a quick lesson on tackling.

Talk about cathartic …

“This for every dirty sock I had to pick up in your room.” Boom.

“This is for every time you refused to take out the garbage.” crack.

“This is for every time you talked back to me.” wham.

“They are bringing it,” said Darrell Crouch, in his 18th year as Washington’s coach. “Sticking their helmet right on their kids. I’ve said to some moms, ‘We got to play him next week, don’t be beating him down too much.’ “

This year’s video, taken by Kurt Pegler, sports director at WMBD in Peoria, Illinois, went viral. The reaction was what you would expect from moms who have had the pleasure of raising teenage boys.

“I’d pay to be able to tackle my son,” said Pam Varner, whose son plays high school football in Stoughton, Massachusetts.

She just might have that opportunity as the town is looking into a “Mom’s Night” as a fundraiser. (Take note Palm Beach County.)

“For anyone who has never raised a teenage boy you do not know how therapeutic this is,” one mom said on Twitter.

Talk about therapeutic. Brittany’s ambition in high school was to play football. It was stung to be told by the coach, the father of her best friend, that she could not be on the team.

She did become a cheerleader, but used her megaphone to yell at the players “and basically coach,” she said.

This Iowa mom lives for football

“I just love football,” said Brittany, who played softball at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa. “I live and breathe it. I wait for it. I’m sad when it’s over. I can’t wait for the next season.

“I wanted to play football my whole life and they wouldn’t let me because I was a girl. I figure, this might be the only chance I ever get to put on pads and tackle so I’ll take advantage.”

That she did. And when it was over, after all 60 or so moms bruised their sons’ egos, not to mention some body parts (one son arose with a bloody lip), some went to Brittany for advice.

“I said, ‘If you want a big huge roar of the crowd you got to make sure it’s pad-on-pad. You want that clap sound. So that means don’t put your body into him until you are literally on him .’ “

Forget football. Moms in Washington, Illinois, need to threaten every kid with a session with Brittany when they don’t do their chores.

Brittany Sonderman and her son, Jackson, a junior wide receiver and linebacker at Washington High School in Illinois.  PHOTO PROVIDED

Crouch, 58, started “Mom’s Night” as bonding and teaching moments where the staff explains the rules and assures the moms their primary concern is to protect their sons. He even brings in his old college helmet to show them the safety advances that have been made.

“Football has been under attack with safety and everything else,” Crouch said. “Really, that first person in line who is going to decide if the son plays is going to be the mom.”

The tackling drill … that has become the icing on the cake, or the ice pack on the son.

“When you have a big hit happen and you hear the pads pop, you’ll hear the mom’s whoopin’ and hollerin’,” Crouch said.

Brittany is a paraprofessional for a fifth-grade special education class. Her school had a lockdown drill Wednesday. After the drill, a student told one of the football coaches how the school should handle a breach.

“Mrs. Sonderman could tackle the intruder,” he said.

Or one of the Green Bay Packers.

Brittany Sonderman gets ready to tackle her son, Jackson, during 'Mom's Night' at Washington High School in Illinois.  PHOTO PROVIDED

Tom D’Angelo is a journalist at The Palm Beach Post. You can reach him at [email protected]

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