WILSON — Keep the family close, right?
Whether it be head coach Bill Atlas and his sons Bobby and Luke, defensive coordinator Matt Faery and his son Declan, brothers Evan and Ben Wolfe, or the Dispenza brothers, Anthony and Chris, Wilson's football program is littered with relatives. But no group of siblings compares to the Mahars.
With three brothers, Mitch, Ben and Evan, the Mahar family has had a huge say in how the Lakemen have performed this season. Mitch, the lone senior, is coming off his biggest game of his career (8 tackles, 2 TFLs), ensuring Wilson earned a berth into the Section VI Class C title game. Evan, only a sophomore, has been navigating the trenches as the team's center, helping Brayden Dunlap (957 rushing yards) nearly crack the 1,000-yard barrier.
Ben, just a junior, has been rock steady as the team's left tackle, but he's also been one of the team's most productive defenders (37 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 13 TFLs). And their younger brother, John (known by family and friends as Jack), is coming down the pipeline as an eighth grader.
The three boys currently on varsity talked about what it's like sharing this special season together.
"It's interesting to say the least," Mitch said. "I didn't expect it. This is actually how it was last year, when Evan was a freshman and Ben was a sophomore, and I was a junior. It was a lot of fun because we also went pretty far last year. It feels pretty cool."
"It's someone you can relate to," Evan said. "You come home, talk football and that's about it. Someone you understand in practice and the games. And you get to yell at each other like no one else's business."
"Like Evan said, all day, every day, we just go home and it's still like an extra half hour of practice just talking about it," Ben said. "Our dad likes to get involved with it a lot, he helps. He even watches some film on other teams just to help us get ready. And it's really cool, it helps out a lot just because you do get to communicate differently with your brothers. Like things you'd say to them, you just do. It's different (and) it's cool"
One other piece of note is the Mahar's program connections aren't limited to their last name. Defensive coordinator Matt Faery, better known as 'Uncle Matt' to the Mahars, and his son Declan, just so happen to be their cousins.
"We've been playing together," Declan said. "I've played with Mahars since like fourth grade. So it's been great just growing up with them. (They've) always been (some) of my best buddies and just playing with them and being able to do this with them, it's great."
"They've got boys coming everywhere," said Matt, who is the first cousin of the Mahars' mother. "It's always fun. It's all families that have all been to school (together) and now we get to watch and coach their kids' play. It's a treat.”
You think that's a lot? 2018 Class C North offensive player of the year Steven Frerichs is another one of their cousins and '18 all-state selection Drew Westmorland is a distant relative as well.
Just how impactful has their family been in Lakemen athletics? Matt and Declan Faery are No. 1 and No. 2 in the program in terms of single-season sacks, while No. 3 and No. 4 are Ben and Bill Faery, who are the uncles of the Mahar boys. They've also set some records in the track and field realm, which Mitch says he's out to break.
With this legacy laid out, the Mahars are trying to carry on this standard, which Jack will eventually venture into as well.
"I don't want him breaking any of my records," Mitch said, causing his brothers to chuckle. "I'm gonna make sure that doesn't happen. … It's just another cool experience just watching them all. We've watched him play for three or four years now and he's watched us play.
" … He might be the best one out of all of us," Mitch uttered, while Ben and Evan vehemently disputed. "They have their disagreements, but he looks up to us I'm sure. Because when we come back after a game he's always like 'did you see when you did that play?' or something. It's just cool, he's interested just as much as we are."
"It'd be fun if we could all play (together)," Evan said. " … Maybe (his) sophomore year, I'm hoping I'll play with him. So I can smack him."
With the opportunity to win a Section VI championship tonight, the boys reflected on what this moment could bring.
"Personally for me, it hasn't really hit," Mitch said.
"The season (has gone by), just like that, it's happened. … We're not looking ahead, but we're always looking to the next game. So after the last game, we're like 'who's next?' We haven't really had the time to look back and enjoy it. We've been so focused on just keep on going. Still, it's like something we haven't done in 29 years, to go to New Era, so it's just one of those things that's really cool to experience. Especially because you have two other brothers on the team.
"It's gonna be cool looking around and just seeing the stadium."
Evan added: "I haven't really thought of it yet. I mean, it's just another game for me. Go out there and play. It's the same thing in practice, I'm guessing the same warmup. I'll like it though … It's just one of those things that we have never experienced; To play a football game out there, especially because we always go and watch the Bills play. Knowing that you're gonna be playing out on that same exact field, it's just something cool. Once in a lifetime experience right there."
Ben, uh, disagreed.
"I don't know what's wrong with these two, I'm completely different," he said. "The pressure's on this week. They're total calm, I'm over here freaking out about this game. I mean, this is the biggest game of your life and it is a great experience, win or lose. Obviously, we want to win, but it's just super cool … we finally made it. I'm still in shock, but it's crazy."
For more from sports reporter Khari Demos, follow him on Twitter @riri_demos. Also, tune in to Khari as a guest on Tony Caligiuri's 'Inside High School Sports,' 10 a.m. Saturdays on WGR550.