By Nick Curcuru
---- — It is a scene Gloucester football fans have already grown accustomed to just two weeks into the season. Gloucester fullback Jordan Pallazola appears to be stopped, and stood up, by multiple defenders only to keep his legs moving and power his way for extra yards, more often than not for a first down or a touchdown.
It’s that motor and physicality that has made Pallazola one of Gloucester’s most imposing figures on both sides of the football, a key cog in Gloucester’s 2-0 start, and a player that opponents need to be wary of on every down.
“Jordan’s such a physical presence and he’s someone that we are comfortable giving the ball to in any situation,” Gloucester head coach Tony Zerilli said. “When we give him the ball I just tell the line to get bodies on bodies and let him run. He’s not going down from an arm tackle and it usually takes more than one guy to bring him down.”
So what does Pallazola say is the secret to his success? The humble senior is quick to pass the credit on to his teammates.
“I’d say it’s the line that’s been helping me pick up yards,” said Pallazola, who is also one of the team’s leading tacklers at middle linebacker. “They’re really clicking, coming together and opening up big holes for the backs.”
Gloucester’s offensive line has certainly played a big part in the success of the running game this fall, but Pallazola has proven time and time again that he can pick up extra yards on his own.
His wide variety of skills were on display in both of Gloucester’s wins against Lynn Classical and Salem.
Last Friday, in Gloucester’s 43-15 victory over the Witches, Pallazola regularly found space to work with as he terrorized the opposing defense to the tune of 126 yards and four touchdowns. Once the senior fullback, who also saw some time at running back with John Curcuru leaving the game with a first quarter injury, got into the open field he ran through and around Salem defenders for extra yardage.
“I just do what the coaches tell us to do, keep my legs going and don’t go down,” Pallazola said.
While he has several runs of more than 20 yards already this season, Pallazola really earns his keep in short yardage situations. When the field shrinks, Pallazola is at his best as he brings the hammer against the opponents biggest hitters and more often than not comes out on top.
Whenever the Fishermen need a yard or two, whether it be a third and short or a goal-to-go situation, Pallazola is getting the ball. The opponents may know where the ball is going and may even get into position to make the play sometimes, but the 5’11” 220 pound bruiser always seems to find a way to get the yardage needed, whether there’s a big hole or not.
“I definitely think I’m at my best when the field gets smaller,” Pallazola said. “I like the physical running style. I’d rather go over someone than around someone.”
Pallazola has been going through and around defenders on a regular basis on the offensive end, and he has been just as effective on the defensive end as the team’s starting middle linebacker, where opposing running backs attempt to go through and around him to no avail.
Pallazola has been a tackling machine over the first two weeks of the season and he’s done it against two very different schemes. Last week against Salem he was on the move showing off his speed making plays from sideline to sideline. In Week 1 against Lynn Classical he made more plays in the dirty areas of the field while taking on offensive linemen and fullbacks all game.
Against Lynn Classical Pallazola made what may be the biggest play of Gloucester’s season so far in a fourth down stop late in the fourth quarter with the Rams driving. On that play he filled the hole, took on a blocker, and delivered the first hit on the ball carrier giving Gloucester the ball back and essentially the win.
“He’s been doing a great job reading his keys and getting to where he needs to be on defense,” Zerilli said. “And when he comes he brings something which is what you want out of a linebacker. You don’t want someone who will fill a hole and dive at ankles, you want someone who will fill a hole and snap helmets back which is what he does.”
Like his role on the offensive end of the field, Pallazola relishes in the physical nature of the middle linebacker position.
“I love the physical aspect of the position, taking on blockers and making tackles,” Pallazola said.
The two-way starter is also the quarterback of the defense, relaying the schemes called in from the coaching staff to his teammates, and his veteran presence in the middle resonates across the unit.
The senior, who also started both ways as a junior, has taken his game to another level this fall and has drawn praise from his coaches in the process.
“He’s a hard worker who shows up every day and gives everything he’s got,” Zerilli said. “He’s the type of player every team is looking for on both ends of the field.”