Russell DeMasi of Savannah Christian grew up a coach's son. He was raised around the game, cutting his teeth on two-a-days and knew how the game was supposed to be played at an early age.
His father, Karl, coached at St. Andrew's and Groves the last few season, something Russell says helps him now. "It helps you a lot," says DeMasi. "Just being around the game so much, helps you understand a lot better. I think I'm a step ahead of everybody on the field. Helps me know what to call."
Despite being around the game at an early age, he didn't start appreciating the game until later. "I didn't play football until fifth grade," says DeMasi. "I never really thought about playing football. I played baseball and basketball. But, when I started playing football, I started liking it a lot more and in high school it became my favorite thing to play. I'm not really into baseball that much any more, but it's still fun to play."
Coach Donald Chumley appreciates the added bonus of a player who understands what is happening during the game. "I think when you have a player like Russell DeMasi, who understands the game and is coming into his senior year, you tend to put more responsibility on him," says Chumley. "You only put on kids that they can handle and everything we've put on him he's been able to handle to this point and we saw the dividends on Friday nights. Again, we're going to put a lot on his shoulders to keep us in the right play, keep us going to the right side, just doing things in the game that a lot of people don't see, but us coaches know."
With Karl having resigned as coach at Groves after last season, he'll now be able to watch his son play all his games this season for the first time. That will present a different dynamic for Russell. "It's going to be a lot different, him being there and watching," says DeMasi. "I'm looking forward to it because he hasn't seen me play a lot and he really wanted to be there."
The question would have to be, will this put more pressure on Russell to perform, "I think it will help me out a little bit. Not thinking about his game might help me out a little bit. I'd be looking at my mom and asking the score. I hope it will help me out."
No matter what, the Raiders are counting on their senior signal caller to lead them to the promised land. "I think the number one thing Russell brings to the team is that he has a great head for the game," says Chumley. "He understands football. He's very coachable. You don't have to explain things to him a lot of what's happening on the field defensively or how teams are trying to stop him up. He's really been a great asset as to being able to make adjustments and changes on the field. I look for him to have a really great year this year."
The 6" 1", 170-pound DeMasi thinks the team will live up to expectations because they know each other so well. "When we came together as freshmen, we had a great season and kept getting better and better," says DeMasi. "We have 12 seniors this year and all of us played a lot since our sophomore year. We have a lot of good underclassmen so it could be a good year for everybody who plays hard and stays focused. Last year, we thought we should have gone farther than we did. This year, the bar is set to the third or fourth round of the playoffs. We know we can get there, we just have to see."
DeMasi's strong suit is that he recognizes defenses and has the ability to check off at the line of scrimmage and get into the right play. "I'm looking to see if we can pass because that's what I like to do. I like to pass it. But, I'm just looking for the best plays to get the most yards on every play, whether it's a pass or it's a run. Whatever we've got to do to win is what I'm going to check the play to."
Does that mean he might change a running play to a pass if the situation presents itself. "I don't know about that, he (Coach Chumley) doesn't like that very much. Maybe a pass to a run but not a run to a pass. He wouldn't like that too much."
But, what if that play would result in a touchdown, would that make things better, "I hope it would, but I might get into a lot of trouble, still."
So, will he ever be tempted to do that, "No not at all!"
After graduation, DeMasi will have a choice of football or baseball. After all, he's also a pretty good pitcher on the Raiders baseball team.