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Football: Mercy lineman lets his play speak for itself

For the soft-spoken Matt Paglia, a good block or tackle may be worth a thousand words. As for actual words, don’t expect much from him.

Paglia is the stereotypical lineman when it comes to talking — or, rather, not saying much. The Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School junior evidently prefers to let his play do the talking for him.

A reporter seeking an interview with Paglia before Monday evening’s practice was warned by assistant coach Mike Quick, “You’ll get one-word answers out of him.”

Shortly after, the hulking figure of the 6-foot-3, 265-pound Paglia, joined by his teammate and best friend, John Urrico, entered the interview room. The matter of Paglia’s quiet nature was immediately brought up.

“I just try to get into the zone and don’t have much to say,” he explained. “You don’t really need to talk. You just need blocks.”

Coach Jeff Doroski has no problem with Paglia keeping his thoughts to himself. Quite the contrary.

“He just keeps his mouth shut and goes to work,” Doroski said, adding, “You don’t get much out of him, but he’s someone we’re hoping will have a big impact on our line on both sides of the ball.”

The red-headed Paglia is one of six returning seniors from last year’s team, which was low on numbers and varsity experience, going 1-7. He started every game on the offensive line.

It hasn’t been determined exactly where on the line Paglia, one of four returning starting linemen, will play, but he gives the Monarchs options.

“We’re not sure where he’ll slot in, but that’s the other thing that’s good about him,” Doroski said. “He’s versatile, so he can play guard or tackle for us on offense and he can play D tackle or D end on defense.”

Doroski said Paglia, winner of the team’s Coach’s Award last year, worked “tremendously hard” in the offseason and came into training camp stronger and in “great shape.”

Urrico, a senior who plays wide receiver and outside linebacker, has known Paglia since they were kindergartners. “He’s a funny guy,” Urrico said. “You got to get to know him.”

Paglia is a second-generation Mercy player. His father, Franco, was a lineman for the Monarchs and a teammate of Doroski’s.

“He’s at every game,” the younger Paglia said. “He screams at me.”

Mercy is seeded 14th in 14-team Suffolk County Division IV. Among the four juniors who have significant varsity experience are quarterback Ryan Razzano and Urrico. They were both second team all-division players. Another junior is Liam Egan, who started at outside linebacker and finished third on the team in tackles. “He never played football before” last year, said Doroski.

“We’re always in the same boat,” Doroski said. “We’re one of the smallest schools in the county playing football … Our numbers aren’t great. We probably have 25 or 26 guys on the varsity roster. The numbers are low right now on the JV, maybe 13, 14 kids down there, but we’ll put a competitive product out on the field.”

The Monarchs are donning new white helmets with the traditional green Mercy “M” on the side and black facemasks this year as they celebrate their 50th year of varsity football.

“We want to put out the best possible team that we can put out on the field, but we know that we’re always going to be fighting an uphill battle based on our numbers, the size of the school and the level that we’re competing against, but these guys develop friendships and game experiences playing in our program that we treasure as a community here at Mercy,” Doroski said. “What I wanted to express to them was the tradition and lineage that they’re a part of now.

“We’re going to win some games along the way and we’re going to lose some games along the way, but what these guys do out there is impressive, and I’m really proud of that.”

How big a role will Paglia play this year?

“That’s really kind of up to him, I think,” Doroski said. “I think he has the potential to be one of our standouts on both sides of the ball.”

Now that would be something to talk about.

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Photo caption: Bishop McGann-Mercy lineman Matt Paglia working with assistant coach Mike Quick during a drill at Monday evening’s practice. (Credit: Bob Liepa)