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Plum tailback hopes to lead Mustangs to more victories

| Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012,
VALLEY NEWS DISPATCH
Plum running back Jake DiGuilio carries the ball during practice at Mustang Stadium on Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012. Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch

Jake DiGuilio paid the price in the offseason.

Now, he hopes to make Plum's football opponents pay over the next couple of months.

“I got a diet plan that helped me lose weight, but also helped me maintain my strength,” said DiGuilio, a second-year starter on both sides of the ball.

“I picked up my lifting and my running. I am in a lot better shape than I was last year. I feel I am faster and able to move a lot better. I am able to get to the ball carrier a lot quicker and find the holes I have to get to.”

The more streamlined senior linebacker and running back — down 15 pounds to about 210 — knows that his time in purple and gold is drawing to a close, and he wants to help the other nine seniors have a successful last hurrah and be a part of a bounce-back campaign.

“Knowing it's the seniors' last year and the last time we will play high school football, we really want to go out with a bang,” DiGuilio said.

Plum struggled last year, as injuries to key players thrust a number of young and inexperienced players into major roles, which translated into a 1-8 overall record and an 0-6 mark in conference play.

“Last year, we were very surprised with a lot of the injuries to the seniors and a bunch of the starters,” DiGuilio said.

“It really helped us now, because a lot of those guys have a lot of experience. They aren't as nervous about going out there, and they have a better idea of what they are doing. They are more confident. Everyone has more confidence.”

Twenty-five returning players earned a varsity letter. DiGuilio is Plum's lone returning conference all-star from last season, earning second-team laurels at linebacker.

He paced the Mustangs with a team-leading 53 tackles, including seven stops behind the line of scrimmage.

Offensively, DiGuilio scored four of Plum's five rushing touchdowns, and he caught one of the three passing scores.

Last year, DiGuilio played strictly fullback in the Mustangs' offensive system. Coach Frank Sacco said he wants to get DiGuilio the ball more this year, and shifting him to tight end at times will be an option.

“He's one of the strongest kids on our team, if not the strongest,” Sacco said. “He's in a lot better cardio shape, too. He got a little tired and worn down last year going both ways.”

Sacco said DiGuilio has received several looks from area Division II and III college football programs, and he said that should increase as the season progresses.

DiGuilio said he and his teammates are ready to strap it up for real on Friday after going through dozens of preseason practices in the late-summer sun and two mettle-testing scrimmages.

“When we first step onto that field (Friday), it's going to be an unbelievable feeling,” DiGuilio said.

“It means a lot to us, and we know how much it means to everyone.”

Mike Love is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at mlove@tribweb.com.

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