What in the helmet is going on?

Anyone who has been to a Thunder game this year can’t help but notice an issue with their new helmets and it came to a head, literally, against Mountain Pointe last week.

Senior running back Jarek Hilgers was running a counter play and broke through a hole when he first encountered a defender and as he tried to break the tackle his helmet came off. Before the play could be whistled dead, as the rules states, Hilgers was hit by two Pride defenders.

His head was busted open in two spots — requiring a total of 12 staples — to stop the bleeding.

“I got up and blood was just running down my face,” he said. “It was scary.”

Imagine his mother, Ina, who is on the sidelines every game taking pictures, as she was close to the action and seeing the end result of a nasty incident that could have been worse.

“She couldn’t believe what was happening but she eventually calmed down,” Hilgers said Wednesday. “She wasn’t handling it well at first.”

The crazy thing is that it’s has been a scary trend this season.

In the season opener, Desert Vista had about five separate plays that ended with their players picking their helmets up off the turf. Against Mountain Pointe, Thunder quarterback Matt Young absorbed a hit at about the 3-yard line and backed into the end zone without his helmet.

The players and coaches have seemed to pinpoint the problem actually lies in the chinstrap, which is plastic and rubber, instead of the helmet.

It gets slick when the players start sweating and slides up over the chin and before the player knows it, the helmet flies off when solid contact is made.

“I put extra air in my helmet and I strapped my chin strap tighter because I knew it was going to be a hard hitting game,” Young said. “You are sweating so much. It’s an intense game. So was the Palo Verde game (in Week 1). It happened to me twice. It just slides off and that’s when it gets dangerous.

Desert Vista coach Dan Hinds said the athletic department is taking the right steps to correct the problem.

“There is enough to look into it,” he said. “When helmets are flying off and guys are getting injured something has to change.”

The other issue was how each play against Mountain Pointe was handled. When Hilgers, who was off to a great start with seven carries for 101 yards, lost his helmet the play was allowed to continue when it should have been blown dead instantly.

Then the very next play — after the long delay as the athletic trainer attended to Hilgers — Young was on his way to the end zone when the whistle came and ended the play instantly without incident.

“I knew the new rule was if you lose your helmet you have to sit out the next play but I didn’t know play stopped because they let it go (with Hilgers),” Young said. “We scored a touchdown anyway, but they stopped me when I has heading into (for the score).

“I don’t understand how one was called one way and the other another. It could have been prevented.”

Hilgers will miss Friday’s game at Westwood but hopes to be back against Corona del Sol the following week.

Whenever he returns, he already has a new six-point chinstrap (buckles three times on each side) ready to rock.

“I wished it never happened and I’m going to be frustrated doing nothing all week,” Hilgers said. “When I get back out there, I will be strapped in and ready to go.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or jskoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

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