Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

North Suncoast coaches rally around Rob Mahler's family in Clash 4 Clayton

When Rob Mahler stepped down as Hudson High football coach in the spring, he cited the opportunity to spend more time with his family, namely wife Jordan, newborn son Camden and 1-year-old son Clayton. Now the family is rallying around Clayton, who was diagnosed with Stage 3 pediatric cancer five weeks ago.

And the North Suncoast football community has stepped in to help the Mahlers.

Springstead athletic director Dustin Kupcik, whose sister Kasey went through her own bout of cancer four years ago, is well aware of the toll that the disease can take on families.

"I'm a dad, and he's a dad. I'm a coach, and he's a coach. It was eating at me," said Kupcik, a former Springstead offensive coordinator. "I got emotional when I called him. He made me feel better when it probably should have been the other way around. He was so confident in his son and his family."

Kupcik proposed a 12-team preseason classic at Springstead, now dubbed the "Clash 4 Clayton." All proceeds will go to the Mahlers as they begin what is expected to be a nine- to 12-month treatment process at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg.

Chick-fil-A in Brooksville will provide breakfast for contest officials, while Gator's Dockside in Spring Hill will provide lunch. I9 Sports of Hernando County will have a hydration tent on the grounds. Sir Speedy has done all printing of fliers for free.

Saturday morning, the teams will begin competition, splitting up between the main field at Booster Stadium and the practice field closer to the gymnasium. The first two scrimmages will kick off at 9:30 a.m. with each matchup lasting for one 12-minute period. The teams will rotate, with the day's events scheduled to wrap up at 2 p.m.

Florida High School Athletic Association officials will take advantage of the day, as well. Referees will be on hand, using the scrimmages as training clinics to tighten up their calls for the upcoming season.

The entry fee is only $2. Donations also will be accepted on behalf of the Mahler family. Among the people taking tickets at the gate will be Kasey Kupcik.

"For a school to put together something like this for us is really humbling," Mahler said. "I've only coached against them, but this shows you how real the coaching fraternity is."

In addition to the "Clash 4 Clayton," Wesley Chapel Nissan is holding a poker night fundraiser from 7 to 10 p.m. Aug. 25 to benefit Clayton.

While Clayton is not old enough to fully understand his illness, his parents are in awe of his strength. Because Jordan Mahler is a nurse, Clayton has been around medical environments for most of his life, so the hospital does not scare him.

"I truly believe that Clayton was built to take this on," Mahler said. "He has been in the 90th percentile in his physical development for most of his life. There are weeks like this week and next week when he acts like nothing is wrong and he's just a normal boy his age. But then there are weeks like last week when an intense treatment can take its toll."

Doctors have given Clayton a good prognosis going forward.

"They have a saying at (All Children's): We don't know how strong we are until being strong is the only option," Mahler said. "That speaks volumes about what these kids have to go through. The more support that these families have, the more successful they can be."

And support for the Mahlers will be evident on Saturday.

Clash 4 Clayton

When: 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday

Where: Springstead High School, 3300 Mariner Blvd., Spring Hill

Teams: Bishop McLaughlin, Fivay, Gulf, Hernando, Hudson, Land O'Lakes, Nature Coast, River Ridge, Springstead, Sunlake, Weeki Wachee, Wiregrass Ranch

North Suncoast coaches rally around Rob Mahler's family in Clash 4 Clayton 08/08/17 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 9, 2017 4:31pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays have their chances, but end up with another loss (w/video)

    The Heater

    TORONTO — The litany of games the Rays have given away this season is long enough, arguably too lengthy. So the only way to get to the postseason is make up for some of those losses by grabbing some wins when the opportunity is presented, especially at this time of year when the margin is diminished and the stakes …

    Associated Press
  2. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Wednesday's Rays-Blue Jays game

    The Heater

    You wonder if the scouting reports and/or workload are catching up to rookie RHP Jake Faria. The bottom line wasn't bad again, three runs in 51/3 innings, but he's having to work harder to get there.

  3. Rays journal: Chris Archer eager for eventful final stretch

    The Heater

    TORONTO — RHP Chris Archer takes the mound today for the Rays as they head into the final 40 games of the season with little margin for error as they battle for an American League playoff spot.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer (22) takes a moment on the mound in the second inning of the game between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, August 6, 2017.
  4. Tim Tebow's slump continues, as does fan support


    CLEARWATER — On July 29, playing against the Charlotte Stone Crabs, Tim Tebow smacked a mammoth three-run homer, helping the St. Lucie Mets cruise to a 10-3 victory at Charlotte Sports Park.

    St. Lucie’s Tim Tebow, shown Monday at Spectrum Field, struggled at the plate Wednesday against the Threshers.
  5. Rays at Blue Jays, 4:07 p.m. Thursday

    The Heater

    Today: at Blue Jays

    4:07, Rogers Centre, Toronto

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun, 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Rays info: Toll-free 1-888-326-7297

    Probable pitchers

    Rays: RH Chris Archer (8-7, 3.84)

    JAYS: RH Chris Rowley (1-0, 1.69)