Bock’s Score: Football Tragedies Start In High School

With the high school and college football seasons about to start, it might be a good time to pause for a moment and think about Joshua Mileto, 16, and Dominick Bess, 14. They are the latest casualties of America’s obsession with this sport.

Mileto was a defensive back and wide receiver for Sachem East High School and in an effort to improve his skills, was enrolled in a preseason training camp. One of the drills involved having five players carry a 400-pound log above their heads. It was an idea borrowed from a training exercise used by the elite U.S. Navy Seals. The Seals train for dangerous military missions. Sachem East was training for a high school football season.

The log slipped from the grasp of the high school kids and struck Joshua Mileto in the head. He was pronounced dead at Stony Brook University Hospital.

Dead at 16. During a football drill.

Bess was a freshman at Mount St. Michael High school in the Bronx, just starting out in football. The players at the prestigious private high school were finishing up practice, doing sprints on a humid morning when Bess said he was tired. One more sprint. That’s when he collapsed. He was pronounced dead at Montefiore Medical Center.

Dead at 14. During a football drill.

At his wake, Joshua Mileto was described as a terrific young man, caring and kind, a sweet kid who happened to enjoy playing football. That’s why he was enrolled in the six-week preseason camp, sponsored by the team’s booster club. The science and math departments don’t have a booster club with cheerleaders and pom-poms. The football team does.

It was an optional camp. The log drill, however, was not optional.

Dominick Bess came from a caring family and was described as a fine young man. He loved cooking and basketball. And, oh yes, he loved football.

And so, Joshua Mileto and Dominick Bess became two more victims of a demanding sport, a sport that has claimed at least three other teen-agers this summer in Mississippi, Florida and Michigan. There will be others. There always are because the game is dangerous. It is a collision sport and collisions cause injuries, sometimes death.

There were the usual words of sympathy for Joshua Mileto and Dominick Bess but at Sachem East and Mount St. Michael, practice resumed days later. The season will go on.

Because of the nature of the sport, helmet manufacturers are always seeking better protection for players. One innovation being tried out this season at many football venues is the Guardian cap, a soft shell helmet cover that snaps on to the face mask and can absorb up to 33 percent of impact in a collision.

It seems to make common sense and could reduce the epidemic of concussions that is rampant in football at all levels. It should be

mandatory especially at the high school level, where the game has a firm grip on kids, parents and administrators.

How big is high school football in this country? Consider that the citizens of Katy, Texas, on the outskirts of Houston, built a $72 million football stadium for their high schools. This outspent Allen, Texas, which spent $60 million on its high school football palace.

Legacy Stadium in Katy has all the amenities, handsome locker rooms, LED lighting, electronic scoreboard, luxury boxes for corporate sponsors, seating for 12,000 fans, all paid for by the residents of Katy, who number just over 16,000.

Hey, you never heard of Friday Night Lights which borders on religion in Texas? High school football is big stuff there.

It was for Joshua Mileto and Dominick Bess, too.

About the Author

Hal Bock

Hal Bock is a contributor with NY Sports Day. He has covered sports for 40 years at The Associated Press including 30 World Series, 30 Super Bowls and 11 Olympics. He is the author of 14 books including most recently The Last Chicago Cubs Dynasty and Banned Baseball's Blacklist of All-Stars and Also-Rans. He has written scores of magazine articles and served as Journalist In Residence at Long Island University's Brooklyn campus where he also served on the selection committee for the George Polk Awards.

Get connected with us on Social Media