This Hits Different Episode 12: North Catholic fights to give teammate “one more game”

Shelby Cassesse tells the story of Carson Laconi, who has persevered through two serious injuries

In this week’s edition of This Hits Different, Shelby Cassesse tells the Fan Morning show about North Catholic senior football player Carson Laconi overcoming two serious injuries in just a few months, while his teammates battled to get him “one more game.”

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North Catholic fight to give teammate “one more game”

Hundreds of local athletes suited up and played for a WPIAL championship over the weekend at Heinz Field, including North Catholic Senior Carson Laconi.

And for the chance alone to play one more high school football game, he's grateful.

“My mom always told me to look on the bright side, no matter what,” Laconi said. “There’s a reason this all happened, so that’s pretty much the mindset that I have.”

The multi-sport athlete currently considering multiple division 1 football offers, was playing lacrosse in the spring when he took a big hit.

“Didn’t really think much of it, just thought I got a little bit concussed,” he said. “I went out to the sideline and a few players later, I came back in, not thinking anything of it. At half-time, I realized that something was wrong.”

Later that day at Butler hospital, tests showed internal bleeding. Carson was rushed to a Pittsburgh hospital, where not 30-40 minutes later, his spleen burst.

“I began to bleed out,” he said. “My monitors were ringing and they decided immediately that they need to take me into emergency surgery to save my life.”

North Catholic football coach Pat O'Shea vividly remembers the moment he got the text.

“It wasn’t so much ‘will he be back for football,’” O’Shea said. “It was just prayers to make sure that he gets back to Carson, make sure he gets back to himself, his family.”

Carson says much of that night is a blur, but surgery was successful.

After leaving the hospital, Carson started rehab. By the summer, he was cleared to return to the football team for his senior season. Not long after, he was sidelined again.

“T was the first scrimmage against Avonworth,” he explained. “I caught a screen pass and ran to the outside and fell and broke my collarbone. Completely broken, in two pieces. It needed surgery, and in 2-3 days I got surgery.”

Doctors set a timeline for Carson's recovery. The only way he could play high school football again was if North Catholic made a deep playoff run. O'Shea says it was an instant motivator for his team.

“I think that provided all of us with an unspoken strength all year that, ya know, we’re going to do this for the school, for our families, for each other,” O’Shea said. “But there was a little bit of it, I think, that we always felt that we were going to do it for Carson, because we need two extra weeks to get him back to full health.”

Though Carson couldn't be on the field, his dedication to his team never wavered.

“The was with us every day,” O’Shea added. “He would go to physically therapy, he would tell us when he was leaving. He didn’t miss a beat, was at every game.”

As Carson healed and regained his strength, the Trojans kept winning. Before the second round of the WPIAL playoffs, he was cleared to play.

Carson's teammates didn't just get him one more game, but three, including the WPIAL 3A championship Saturday.

“My teammates told me from day one that they were going to get me another game,” Laconi said. “My coaches kept telling me, from the second that I went down, that they were going to get me another game. And that’s just something that I took to heart.

“Going through rehab, I just had that in the back of my mind, that they were going to give me one game.”

Now, Carson is looking ahead to his next goal, playing football in college.

As the offers pour in, he'll always have a ringing endorsement from his coach, who says Carson has what a lot of big college football programs don't.

“Sometimes I think college recruiters don’t look enough at a kid’s character,” O’Shea said. “And they find themselves on a team that doesn’t have a lot of culture, a healthy culture.

“He’s one of those kids that I think proves, to anybody, that if you get Carson Laconi on your team in college, you’re lucky.”