In his 12 seasons at St. Thomas Aquinas, where he served as defensive coordinator before becoming head coach, Rocco Casullo has overseen some impressive defensive lines.
But this year’s group, headlined by defensive end Anthony Moten (3 sacks, 6.5 tackles for loss) and Nicholas Bosa (11.5 sacks, 17 tackles for loss), are probably the most consistent he said he’s seen during his time with the Raiders in regard to run support and pursuing opposing quarterbacks in passing situations.
They, along with rush linebacker Chris Hart (45 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks), will be key for the Raiders to get pressure on Dwyer quarterback Daniel Parr in Friday night’s Class 7A regional final at Dwyer. Dwyer’s offensive line features a pair of three-year starters in Mark Kelly and Daikwon Fuse.
Casullo said Dwyer is “very similar to Miramar,” which won at St. Thomas 22-20 earlier this season, and better than the Dwyer team that beat St. Thomas 6-3 in the regional finals two years ago. The reason why, he noted, is Parr.
“He’s very good at sitting back in the pocket and reading what the defense is presenting and making the right reads,” Casullo said. “Two years ago, their emphasis was on running. This year, they’re a lot more balanced. They’ve got great speed receivers. And the running back [Alonzo] Smith is one of the best, if not the best, we’ve seen all year.”
St. Thomas has allowed seven points or fewer in nine of its 10 wins. John Curtis (La.) Christian managed 13, but most of those came with the outcome already decided. In its two losses, to Miramar and Deerfield Beach, St. Thomas was outscored by a combined 49-27.
The Raiders have continued to thrive despite injuries to key players, including LB Jake Stewart (broken hand) and CB Al Harris Jr. (hamstring) – both out for the rest of the season.
Darryl Williams Jr. and Hunter Goldberg have been consistent at linebacker, and Denzel Hatcher “has done a great job” filling in for Stewart, as he’s averaged double-figure tackles the past three games.
The secondary, featuring S Tyson Cisrow and CB Natrone Barnes, will face its toughest test this season trying to cover Dwyer’s trio of Johnnie Dixon (21 catches, 448 yards, 7 TD), Ezra Saffold (25 catches, 520 yards, 7 TD) and Clint Stephens (21 catches, 354 yards, 6 TD), although Stephens is questionable to play after sitting out last week’s game injured.Copyright © 2015, CT Now