Kennebunk Youth Football Program board members spend a moment before a pee wee game Sunday to thank Tom McNamara, center with helmet, and the Tommy McNamara Charitable Foundation for helping raise money for the purchase of about 120 top-of-the-line helmets. (PHOTO COURTESY OF KENNEBUNK YOUTH FOOTBALL)

KENNEBUNK — During the first half of the Kennebunk Pee Wee football team’s home opener against Marshwood on Sunday, Rams defender Colin Qualey delivered a fierce hit on a Hawks running back that saved a potential touchdown.

The Kennebunk crowd roared with excitement on the stop. Not only did the defensive effort save a scoring chance for the visitors, but those in the bleachers knew their sons were a little safer on the field thanks to their new state-of-the-art Riddell SpeedFlex helmets. 

Prior to the game, the Kennebunk Youth Football Program recognized the Tommy McNamara Charitable Foundation (TMCF) for contributing funds that helped the league with the purchase of about 120 helmets.  

“It’s amazing,” said Kennebunk Pee-Wee head coach Greg Taggart. “Safety is everything about this game and what they gave us was the ability to purchase the top-of-the-line helmets that the NFL players wear. How can you possibly thank someone enough for that?”

Tom McNamara, the founder of TMCF, helped the program purchase 120 helmets during the offseason to improve player safety. McNamara founded TMCF after his son, Tommy McNamara, died in 2012 when he drowned about a mile off the coast of Kennebunk during a day on a boat with friends. Before the game, Kennebunk players placed curated stickers with a “TMCF” logo on their helmets. To be a part of helping the youth football program, McNamara said, was an amazing experience for him.

“To have an opportunity to be involved in an initiative where you’re seeking out the best protective headgear for these kids to prevent head injuries and allow them to just go out and have fun, the way football is meant to be is just a wonderful thing,” he said before the game. “For us, it’s a pleasure to be involved in helping out.”

Taggart said the helmets have been a roaring success, and he has yet to hear criticism from a single player on his team. 

“The players are incredibly comfortable wearing the helmets,” Taggart said. “We had nobody in the preseason who was complaining about headaches or anything like that. They fit perfectly, and they’re wonderful helmets.”

With their new Riddell SpeedFlex helmets, one of the top-rated helmets on the market, the Kennebunk players engaged in a scoreless battle for much of their game against Marshwood. 

The game was more informal than a typical football match. Most of the coaches stood on the field, giving out plays for their athletes to run. 

But late in the fourth quarter, Brady Isabelle found the endzone for Marshwood on a sweep play and the Hawks escaped for a 6-0 win. Despite losing their opener, Taggart saw a vast improvement in his Kennebunk squad from their game against Wells.

“Last week, we got beat badly,” Taggart said. “We had difficulty with tackling and pursuit angles. Today, we did a much better job.”

Even though the Rams were held off the scoreboard, Taggart liked what he saw from his group as the game progressed, and he believes Kennebunk is destined for a good season.

“We got a bit awkward on offense a bit, but I thought we got better as the game went on,” Taggart said. “I see greatness in our future.”

 

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