The Press Newspaper
It's common practice for football coaches to fudge a little bit when they list their players' height and weight.
Genoa's football game program lists senior Devin Mazza as being 5-foot-7 and 150 pounds.
He may be small in stature, but Mazza plays big on the football field. At his position, he has to. Mazza is the starting nose guard in the Comets' 5-3 defensive alignment, and third-year Genoa coach Mike Vicars has No. 51 right where he wants him.
"It starts with the element of strong toughness," Vicars said. "He's a wrestler and he understands leverage. He is very, very quick and probably his strongest thing is he has a lot of tenacity, which you have to have when you're playing in there. He's a good, quality student and a good, quality kid. He is a good leader for our team."
Two years ago Mazza was a sophomore cornerback, but Vicars had other ideas.
"In my first year, at the very end of the year, I drafted him from the defensive backfield," said Vicars, who coaches the defensive line. "I just felt he had the attributes I would want someday as a nose guard. He's not the smallest guy I've had, but he does a good job."
Said Mazza, "I got moved from corner to linebacker from Week 5 to Week 8, and then from there to the line. It was a little weird at the beginning. I wasn't used to the big guys up front, but I got used to it. Nose guard is a fun position. You just read the guards and stay low. It's not very fun when you get double-teamed, but when you make a tackle behind the line, it's pretty cool."
It's even better when you score touchdowns.
Mazza played running back and cornerback as an eighth-grader. He scored an offensive touchdown that season, but he hadn't scored since. That is, until last Friday when he scooped up a third-quarter fumble and ran in for a score from 15 yards in Genoa's 60-0 victory at Rossford.
"I was trying to beat the lineman, and all of sudden I see (defensive end) Richard Wonnell coming in and nailing the quarterback," said Mazza, who finished with five tackles. "I go after the ball and Seth Dufendock was there first, and he could have picked it up. He turned around and blocked the guy. I thought it was a dead ball, so I hesitated for a second.
"I was standing there and I didn't hear any whistles, and I got the ball and just took off. I wouldn't say I'm very fast, but it was a straight shot. I got to the end zone and I saw (teammate) Jon Lester coming right at me (to celebrate). Early in the game we were getting interceptions and fumble recoveries and I was saying, 'I haven't scored since the eighth grade.'
"It was just ironic that it happened. My dad called me, my brother called me and I talked to my mom for a while. I got to bed around 12:30 and I had to get to school by 8 a.m. Saturday for film, so it was a rough night."
Even though he is smaller than most nose guards, Mazza has an advantage because of his wrestling background. He has been a wrestler since the seventh grade, and last year he took second at 135 pounds at the Suburban Lakes League tournament.
Mazza lines up next to junior tackles Justin Upham (5-8, 154) and Casey Wojciechowski (5-9, 185) on the Comets' defensive line. Last year, Mazza had 10 unassisted tackles and assisted on 44 others to go along with two sacks and one fumble recovery.
"I prefer playing up there," Mazza said. "You're in the action all the time and you're the first line of defense. Without us, the linebackers can't make the plays. We plug up the holes so the linebackers can fill the gap. We just try to keep the linemen off the linebackers. That's our main goal."
Mazza said he plans to join the Navy and study engineering next year. For the time being, he has every intention of leading Genoa to its third straight SLL title and a third straight trip to the Division IV state playoffs.
"We take every game week by week and we don't overlook anybody," Mazza said. "We just try to do our best. Our coaches always say never think about Week 11 and on. We have to get (weeks) 1-10 done. We're just concentrating on Oak Harbor and the Celestial Bowl this week. That's our main thought right now."
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