WHITTIER – Pioneer High School’s Titan Football program is among seven across the nation selected to share $100,000 in equipment grants awarded by helmet manufacturer Riddell, a recognition of its efforts to build a safe football program for its student-athletes.

As part of Riddell’s first-ever Smarter Football initiative, players, coaches, administrators, parents and fans at all levels of the football community were called to create a safer playing field that incorporates the latest tools, teaching and techniques.

Pioneer’s share of the award is about $15,000, which will go to buy upgraded Riddell helmets and shoulder pads that employ the latest technology aimed at minimizing head and neck injuries.

“We’re coming off our best season in more than a decade, and now we’re going to have some new equipment for the kids, so we’re excited about the future,” said Head Football Coach Chuck Willig, who in his fourth year led the Titans to a 7-3 record. “I want to thank Riddell for providing this grant and the opportunity to strengthen our commitment to fostering a smarter game.”

The helmets include a flexibility feature that disperses energy to reduce injuries and a system that records and sends data on hits to coaches so they can determine whether players can safely continue playing. The shoulder pads protect the acromioclavicular joint – located at the top of the shoulder – while allowing for maximum range of arm motion.

“We’ve already implemented some new techniques that are safer, including a rugby style of tackling in which players use their shoulders and not their heads,” Willig said. “While we want hard contact, we are always keeping student safety in mind.”

Hundreds of entries for the Riddell grant showcased teams’ approaches to football, with the winners demonstrating how a smarter game stretches beyond winning and losing.

“I would like to congratulate our Titan Football Program coaching staff, who knows the importance of teaching fundamental skills, safe ways to play the game and making it an enjoyable experience for everyone involved,” Principal Monica Oviedo said. “We can’t wait to see how this new state-of-the-art equipment enhances the sport and continues to instill us with Titan Pride.”