Friday Night Bytes: Can Analytics Revolutionize High School Football?

Every week, as Mater Dei has tripped over the truth, Mahoney’s responsibilities have expanded. He now manages the clock and advises on 2-point conversion strategy. He communicates the fourth-down plan, based on the tablet readouts, early in the series to guide how Mangiero and the offensive coordinator, Taylor Groh, call plays.

If on third-and-7, for example, Groh knows that Mater Dei will be going for it on fourth-and-3 or less, he might call a play that could net 4 or 5 yards instead of trying to gain all 7 at once.

During the week, after synthesizing customized postgame reports, Mahoney prepares a slide show presentation for the coaching staff. One was so illuminating, Mangiero said, he showed it to the team as part of a larger message about precision.

By demonstrating that turnovers cost the Seraphs 15.5 percent in win probability in their previous game, he reframed the importance of ball security in more urgent terms. When someone jumps offsides in practice, Mangiero reinforced his point by saying the offender cost them a touchdown.

Mahoney marvels at how quickly Mater Dei has incorporated analytics, and to its advantage: The Seraphs (4-1) have won four consecutive games heading into Friday’s season finale and are positioned to earn a playoff berth.

He wants to continue bridging the gap between science and 150 years of football. He wants to educate coaches without demanding they conform. He wants to research and experiment, build templates and confidence. He also wants to be a head coach again, and to train an acolyte or two.

Until then, he will appreciate giving Mater Dei an edge, as he did against Middletown South.

As the final seconds ticked down in the Seraphs’ 10-3 victory, Mahoney bumped fists with the assistants flanking him. He grabbed his Columbia laptop bag — “I need to bring the nerd side of me to football games” — and his headset. One by one, they headed down the stairs, toward the field, to their team, to celebrate together.

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