Look at any great high school, college, or pro football team and ask why they are so successful? Sure we can look at the Quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers as skill positions that place points on the board. But all great teams have something else in common that brings them full circle. They all have great D-lines.
I've been watching Pleasant Grove High School (PG) football for the past 4 years. I've watched the program progress from obscurity to a regional powerhouse. The school has one of the best programs in the area. PG is a balanced team now, meaning they are just as talented defensively as they are offensively. Head coach Joe Cattolico and assistant coach, D line, Phil Paggett have a team that's built not only for the regular season, put for the post season as well. A team that continues to prove what their made of as they now enter the section championship game against St. Mary's of Stockton.
This final game is intriguing in more ways than 1, for example it's the first school that PG's athletic director, Jeff Caton, coached at in the beginning of his career – dejavu. It's a game between public and private institutions. It's a game between old school and the new kids on the block. It's a game between a great St. Mary's offense versus a rock solid PG defense. We know both teams can score. The game will probably come down to D line vs. D line, sacs .. tackles.. fumbles and pressuring the quarterback.
Jeff Caton, far left, at the side of a injured Pleasant Grove player. The PG players earned their ticket to the show – 1 game at a time.
I had the opportunity to talk to one of the best D line coaches in the area. His name is Phil Paggett. How good is Phil Paggett as a coach, just look to one of his past D line players ,now playing at USC. I'm talking about Armond Armstead, who's now playing on one of the best D lines in college football history. These are not my words, although I agree, but those of a TV commentator during a recent USC game.
Coach Phil Paggett
I asked Phil what PG has done to make the team so successful in what many considered to be a transition year at PG. PG graduated the heart of its D line last year with Armond Armstead, Mike Arnold, Larry "Breeze" Bates, and Brandon Barnes all graduating. He said " Kids have taken coaching to another level, they knew they'd come in this year knowing the D line would be weaker with those solid players graduating – but they all stepped up"
I asked Coach Paggett for the names of three kids that standout on the D line. He gave me the three names and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that two were juniors and the third a sophomore. They are:
Mason Hastings #8, RB/DE, is a 6'2" tall sophomore and weighs in at 215 pounds. He was brought up to varsity after his 4th game playing JV. Since then he's averaged 4.2 tackles per game, 38 tackles total. Hastings has 3 sacks and 3 fumble recoveries.
Charlie Rodriguez # 36, DL is a 6'1" tall Junior and weighs in at 250 pounds. He averages 4.5 tackles per game with a total of 50 tackles and has 1 sack.
Trevor Dixon #57, OL/DL is a 5'8" junior and weighs in at 240 pounds. He averages 2.5 tackles per game , with 30 tackles total and 1 fumble recovery.
Dixon puts in the work as he's double teamed and breaks through.
Dixon has a nose for the ball.
Coach Paggett had the following to say about these three solid players:
"Trevor is a strong kid.. strong player, he's quick yet hard to move. He's got a nose for the ball. Instincts are high and gets to the ball with force.. again he's tough and incredible durability.
Now Charlie is a junior playing football for the first time ever, shows amount of coaching – what great coaching can do.. no opponent can stop him I the spirit moves him.. he's an unmovable rock, a solid rock.
Mason Hastings, is a sophomore player, he's helped the D line tremendously the D line has come together with him, he's made the D line solid. He's got athleticism, strength, plays hard and has a high IQ for the game. "
Finally I asked Coach Paggett how does he feel PG will do against St. Mary's? he said:
"We'll do fine.. the challenge will be St. Mary's O line.. the best O line we will face this year.. St. Mary's O line is big and they get off the ball well – but the PG D line is up for the challenge."
Cody Vaz and St. Mary's O line.
Cody Vaz will not make it easy for PG.
Who'll win the game this Saturday as Pleasant Grove High School faces St. Mary's of Stockton at the University of the Pacific? I don't know. What I do know, from what I've seen is we're in for a great game from both teams.
Sure it's offense that puts the points on the board, but it's the "D line" that wins the game.
Charlie decides to even the odds.