WEST NEWBURY — They form a mobile defensive line because that’s what’s required.
Pentucket football coach Steve Hayden lets an anecdote do the talking when describing his five defensive players who buck the trend of the 200-plus pound behemoth.
“We had a coach that was coaching at Central Catholic, and he saw Mike McCarron and said, ‘He’s just like a little paper boy,’” says Hayden. “So that just tells you (something).”
Senior defensive tackle McCarron stands 5 feet, 10 inches tall and tips the scales at 170 pounds. Right defensive end Connor McGuirk is the heaviest of the bunch, weighing in at 185 pounds and 5 feet, 11 inches. Defensive end Franco Pizzarella is the giant of the group at 6-feet-2, 155 pounds. And the baby of the bunch, junior right defensive tackle Chad Lagault, comes in at 5-feet-11, 174 pounds. Senior defensive end Dan Thornton (175 pounds) was sidelined for the season with a broken wrist.
“Basically, everyone is bigger than us,” says Lagault. “When someone says, ‘Oh, these kids are big.’ We say, ‘Yeah, obviously, every single (player) we face is 100 pounds heavier than us. So, we’re kind of used to taking a hit.”
These Sachems (5-5) certainly take the hits like everyone else, but their relatively smaller stature lends itself to a quicker, more agile style of play while defending their junior quarterback, Ryan Kuchar.
“We’re probably quicker than a lot of the defensive lines out there,” says McCarron. “So we do a lot of stunting, that helps out, because we can get around the bigger kids, where we can’t get through them. We hear a lot about leverage and stuff. But when you start like four inches below everybody else, it’s a little bit easier to get underneath them.”
“When someone is trapping (me), I can get low enough to take out their legs and clog up the hole,” says McGuirk. “Or blow up the play by wrong-shouldering them.”
“I’d just get low and take it the best (I) can, to spite it,” adds Lagault.
But simply being able to move around isn’t going to cut it for too long on the defensive side of the ball, so these players have to compensate for their size with good old-fashioned hard work.
“We make up for it by hitting the gym,” says McGuirk. “We go every Monday and Wednesday morning, so we’re strong, even though we’re not that big. Then we run a lot at practice so we have a lot of speed so we can burst off the line. (But) honestly, everyone here, we do it by choice. I’ve been lifting for so long, I just kind of feel weird if I don’t. And it’s helped me a lot. I choose to do it and I’ve been choosing to do it all along.”
“We have to get up really early,” says Lagault. “So it kind of gives us that work ethic that we bring onto the football field.”
Coach Hayden has always liked that strong work ethic.
“They have good drive, and they’ve done well,” says Hayden. “Nothing comes easy in life. If you want things, you have to work for it. There’s no guarantee that if you work for it, you get it. But they’ve been good kids to have, and I’m going to miss those guys.”
Thursday’s Thanksgiving Day game against Triton (1-9) will indeed bring the seniors’ careers to a halt, and they know they want to leave it all out on the field.
“This is definitely an emotional game,” says McGuirk. “This is the last game of our whole entire high school career, and I’m definitely ready to go out there and give my all. I know that my teammates will too. Especially the members of this defensive line.”
The line will be looking to read Vikings junior quarterback Brad Whitman and protect the gap.
“Basically it’s the same thing we’ve done all season” says Pizzarella. “Just getting off the ball and trying to beat them off the line of scrimmage. We’ll try to take the neutral zone, that’s the big thing.”
Once business is taken care of against Triton, all but Lagault will get on about the business of the rest of their lives.
“They’ve been a good group to work with,” says Hayden. “I’m very happy with them, and we wish them the best with their future.”