Features | Friday Night Drive

Mack O’Halloran set to turn the page on missed games as Downers Grove South’s key two-way player

Mack O’Halloran tried not to let the total number bother him.

The Downers Grove South senior tight end/defensive lineman wasn’t frustrated by his total number of catches nor tackles – well, maybe – but rather an uncontrollable factor that’s hindered his career.

Because of injuries and the pandemic, O’Halloran has played a total of 10 career varsity games. He’s played just seven complete games. Early in his career, O’Halloran was a highly touted athletic player with a big upside, but the lack of games slowed his progress.

O’Halloran said he’s ready to turn a new page in his athletic career after missing so many games. The 6-foot-4, 230-pounder wants to add to his seven scholarship offers.

“It’s very upsetting just to know I’ve missed so many games,” O’Halloran said. “But I’ve always been setting goals for myself the whole time during my process.”

His shoulder finally healthy, O’Halloran is ready to build off his five-game effort from his junior season.

“I was a little nervous going into summer camp about how my shoulder would respond, but it’s held up,” O’Halloran said. “I’m 100%. I can get back to playing. I had some doubt after the first couple of weeks after the surgery because I didn’t know if I would be back to 100%. As time went on, I got more comfortable. It’s felt amazing to get out there and play after having so much doubt.

“I’m more than excited for the season to start. I can’t wait to get out there and have a full healthy season. Hopefully, our team can make some noise and I can also give everyone a chance to see who I am.”

Downers Grove South coach Mark Molinari projects O’Halloran to be a vital two-way player, especially following the graduation of standout receiver Eli Reed.

“Mack is healthy and running,” Molinari said. “He’s got a couple of offers. We’re hoping he has a really good season. He will play offense and defense. If he plays well, there will be a lot more opportunities for him. Mack will be a real big deal on defense, too.”

O’Halloran said he’s been encouraged by his play this summer at 7-on-7s and college camps.

“I’ve definitely got faster,” he said. “I ran track this past spring, which really helped me out. I learned how to use my body. When I was a freshman, I was a big kid trying to figure it out. I feel a lot quicker right off the snap of the ball. I’m moving a lot quicker than my sophomore year.”

Molinari said O’Halloran, senior wide receiver Brandon Amaniampong and senior quarterback Ryan Dawson are slated to be leaders for his team.

“We played a lot of sophomores last year, but obviously our seniors are going to lead us,” Molinari said. “Brandon, Mack and Ryan Dawson are three of those seniors. Brandon is a kid who didn’t get a ton of playing time last year, but colleges really like him. He will get a chance to play some offense. Ryan Dawson is a three-year starter, so I feel good about our offense. Hopefully, our defense will fly around.”

Still, Molinari said the 2022 season will include many challenges, mainly because of a daunting early season slate.

The Mustangs open the season against defending Class 7A state champion Wheaton North followed by Glenbard West, Downers Grove North and Willowbrook.

“We took some growing pains last year, but our sophomores, we’re seeing some of the fruits of the hard work,” he said. “Our schedule is challenging. We’ll find out who we are right away.”