091104 NC linemen2

091104 NC linemen2/sports DAN CAPPELLAZZO/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Niagara Falls - Niagara Catholic linemen; DJ Virtuoso, Justin Waas, Melvin Dyster, assistant coach Russ Nixon, Zach Poreda, Mark Nearhood, Steve Beck and Ben Webb prepare to do battle in the trenches.

Dave DeVaughn, Mike Richbart, Mouse Matthews, Zach Evans and Jordan Rhodes. Those are the names that normally garner the headlines for Niagara Catholic.

But in reality it’s D.J. Virtuoso, Justin Waas, Melvin Dyster, Zach Poreda, Mark Nearhood, Steve Beck and Ben Webb that make the Patriots tick.

“When our (skill) players have their best days, it’s a direct reflection that the line did their job,” veteran NC coach Don Marinucci said as his team prepared for Saturday’s Monsignor Martin League A semifinal at St. Mary’s of Lancaster. “And to be honest, the line is where we’re going to have to win this game. They are the key to this one.”

That’s a pretty strong statement, but one that is well warranted considering most of the line has seen significant playing time for at least two and sometimes even three or four seasons.

“We’ve been together so long that we can work with almost anybody,” senior Melvin Dyster said. “We’ve gotten stronger, bigger, smarter and our attitudes have improved. We’ve grown up as one unit.”

There were plenty of growing pains for the group as underclassmen, but many of those were overcome with the help of offensive line coach Russ Nixon.

“He’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever had,” senior Justin Waas said. “He opened the weight room in the offseason and taught us a lot. He’s one of my biggest influences.”

Senior D.J. Virtuoso agreed.

“He’s the kind of guy that’ll make you work, but when you do, he’ll show you love,” he said. “He’s always trying to help us get better.”

One area where the group has really improved, especially this fall, is communication.

“We all use the same terms, the same lingo,” Dyster said. “We know what each other is going to do and that helps eliminate mistakes.”

Virtuoso added, “There’s been more communication than ever before and I think that’s only made us better. We always know where we’re going and what we’re doing.”

Now, Marinucci hopes that same confidence transfers over into Saturday’s tilt. The winner will advance to the MMAA League A championship at Ralph Wilson Stadium — a dream come true for these big boys.

“It’s not a question of talent, it’s just a question of us getting the job done,” Dyster said. “We’ve been working at it, now it’s time to do it.”

“If we play the hardest game we’ve ever played, there’s no question in my mind we’ll end up going to the Ralph,” Virtuoso added.

Contact reporter Nate Beutel at 282-2311, ext. 2262.

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