DERRY — Aside from kicking and punting, there are not many tasks Derry utility player Sal DeCario plans to shy away from in his senior campaign.
An integral cog in Derry’s offensive and defensive arsenals the last two seasons, the hard-hitting DeCario made his bones at the fullback and linebacker positions.
Plagued by injuries last season, DeCario played just three games, carrying the ball just four times and catching just two passes.
This year, the unselfish and slightly undersized DeCario will move from linebacker to defensive tackle. There, on the interior line, third-year Derry coach Al Gaiardo said the 5-foot-10, 205-pounder will use his unmatched quickness and explosiveness to wreak havoc on opposing backfields.
“He started off as a linebacker last year, and then we moved him to the defensive line toward the end of the season, where he really shined for us,” Gaiardo said. “He’s got a tremendous first step, and we’re looking for him to use that throughout the course of the season to get up field and disrupt things. He’s strong, he’s tough, and he’s quick, and the combination of all three of those things makes him a natural for that position. It doesn’t matter that he’s only 5-foot-10, 200 pounds. He makes up for it and more with his strength and speed.”
From an offensive standpoint, DeCario, a punishing blocker with good vision and soft hands, will share reps at fullback with junior and first-year starter T.J Balega. However, because of his grit and undeniable play-making prowess, DeCario will also split time at tailback with junior and first-year starter Josh Flack.
In the wake of the graduation of the team’s leading rusher from a year ago, Josh Wannamaker, and with the maturation of senior quarterback Kyle Holmes, Derry will become an even more pass-heavy team this season.
But despite drawing up most of his team’s plays in the shotgun formation, Gaiardo pointed out that DeCario and Flack will each play workhorse roles in certain scenarios.
Wannamaker rushed for 539 yards and scored nine touchdowns on 127 attempts last year. He also caught 35 passes out of the backfield for 543 yards and two touchdowns.
“You never want to try and say you’re going to replace a Josh Wannamaker,” Gaiardo said. “But we’ve got guys that can call on to do a great job. They’re just going to have to share the load. Sal is a very explosive kid, and Josh Flack is an explosive kid, and the depth they provide is going to help us remain healthy throughout the season. We can give these guys a break and we don’t have to worry about giving the ball to one person 35 times a game.”
Gaiardo also pointed out that DeCario served as the team’s motivator in the weight room in the offseason, and after a year of standing in Wannamaker’s shadow, he has become the Trojans’ emotional leader.
“He’s not just a hard worker, he’s a good leader for us, too,” Gaiardo said. “Sal’s not the most outspoken kid. He just leads by example. He started in the weight room, and that dedication is carrying over to the field. We’re hoping that rubs off on some of the younger guys.”