By Sean Lynch
Section 9 Football Insider Staff
SLATE HILL — John Mack is back — and stronger than ever.
The 6-foot-4 Minisink Valley wide receiver had 10 touchdowns and 483 receiving yards through five games last season, and helped the Warriors to its second 4-0 start in school history.
His breakout season abruptly ended after he suffered a broken collarbone in a Week 5 triple-overtime loss against division rival Warwick.
Quarterback Ryan Johanson threw a back-shoulder pass to Mack in the corner of the end zone. Mack landed directly on his collarbone as the wet pigskin rolled off his hands and into the back of the end zone.
That one play ended his once-promising season and haunted him when he watched games on the sidelines.
“It was definitely motivation to come back stronger,” said Mack, a rising senior. “If I made that catch, I definitely wouldn’t have broken my collarbone, and we would’ve won that game. There’s so many what if’s, and it wasn’t fun to think about them.”
The Warriors went 2-2 without Mack and finished the season with a 41-0 Class A semifinal loss to eventual state-champion Cornwall.
The worst part of his injury was knowing there was nothing he could do to be able to compete with his teammates for the rest of the season.
“The worst part was being patient with it,” Mack said. “You can’t rehab it any quicker, you just have to let it heal. Pacing around the sidelines while the rest of my teammates played was terrible.”
After a 10 week absence from Section 9 sports, Mack returned to his second sport, basketball. He averaged 12.3 points and 7.9 rebounds per game and helped Minisink reach its first ever Class A final.
Mack’s injury luck didn’t get any better during the basketball season.
In the Class A semifinal against Monticello, Mack suffered an ankle sprain. He started in the final versus New Paltz but limped gingerly on the court before being taken out with five minutes left in the opening quarter.
“It’s kind of weird because both times I got hurt this season were the only times in my career where I was hurt. I’ve gotten a few bumps and bruises, but that was the first time I couldn’t push through it. I wasn’t used to sitting on the bench watching my teammates play. It was like an itch I couldn’t scratch. It sucked.”
Now healthy, Mack has been focused on getting his body and mind right for the upcoming football season. He goes to Golds Gym, CrossFit, and to the Minisink Valley weight room 5-to-6 times a week.
CrossFit is a high-intensity fitness program incorporating elements from several sports and types of exercise. It is often described as one of the most difficult routines for physical fitness.
“It’s a lot, but it works for me. It’s always put me in great shape. Ever since I started that routine, I don’t get tired as easily.”
Mack’s return to the gridiron will come on Sat. June 15 at the Hudson Valley 7-on-7 Shootout at Warwick High.