Pongasi playing solid corner, receiver for 9-1 Senators
Gabe Pongasi has a nice little nine-game streak going, but it’s one that many people don’t know about.
Pongasi has not allowed a touchdown catch since the opening game of the season when the Senators knocked off Del Campo, 31-10.
Pongasi, one of the top cornerbacks in Northern 4A football, hopes to continue that streak at 7 p.m. today when Carson (9-1) hosts Reed (9-2) in a 4A regional semifinal at Carson High School.
“I think about it sometimes,” Pongasi admitted. “It’s not something I think about before a game or before a practice.”
Pongasi has filled a void left by the departure of Josh Peacock, who intercepted nine passes a year ago en route to all-league and all-region honors. Pongasi has 38 tackles with a high of six against Douglas.
“Coming into the year we needed Gabe to step up,” Carson coach Blair Roman said. “With Dylan (Sawyers) at safety and Colby (Blueberg) returning at one corner, he was the piece we needed (to fit the puzzle).
“He has been very consistent. We had to use him at safety when Dylan got hurt. He’s the most versatile (among Carson’s defensive backs). I’m really proud of him. He’s had a great year.”
A lot goes into being a good cornerback. Roman said he has been impressed with Pongasi on several different levels.
“The biggest thing Gabe brings to the table is his coverage skills,” Roman said. “He has tremendous feet. The last two games he was really solid.”
Pongasi did play one game at free safety, but he feels more at home at cornerback.
“Safety is a whole lot more difficult,” he said. “You have a whole lot more to worry about. You have the reads off the tackles and you have to play the run a lot harder and know which side to cheat to.
“We’ve played mostly cover 3 (zone) a lot, but we’ve played a lot of man-to-man the last couple of weeks.”
Pongasi has been pretty durable. He did miss the bulk of the Damonte Ranch game and the Spanish Springs game because of a concussion suffered in the easy win over Damonte. Against Damonte he had two catches at receiver for 38 yards before suffering the injury.
“I thought I just had the wind knocked out of me,” Pongasi said. “They told me it was a concussion. I saw bright lights. They asked me questions about what was going on during the game.”
Pongasi has bounced back nicely, registering 13 tackles in the last three contests, and Carson went 2-1 in that span, the only blemish a 21-17 loss to Reno in the regular-season finale.
Besides his stellar play on defense, Pongasi has played well at wide receiver. He has 14 catches for 216 yards and one score. He has combined with Chris Steele to give Carson 28 catches for 380 yards and two scores. Pongasi has been especially effective after catching the ball. He has some elusive moves which has accounted for some extra yardage.
“He’s done a good job at wide receiver,” Roman said. “Ean (Witter) started there last year and he had 30 catches. If you combine Chris and Gabe, they are almost at 30. Gabe worked hard in the off-season with coach (Steve) Dilley.”
Pongasi said that he and Steele alternate every other series. Roman said sometimes that is changed if he wants a certain personnel grouping on the field.
In Carson’s offense, being a receiver is more than catching the ball. You better be willing to block and sacrifice your body to spring a teammate for big yardage.
“I think he’s our top blocker (among receivers),” Roman said. “He’s usually 1-on-1 with a linebacker or safety. It’s a difficult block. He’s usually outsized, too.”
So far there have been no sightings of Pongasi bouncing backward after blocking a bigger player, and that’s always a good sign.
“I definitely have to work more on my downfield blocking,” Pongasi said. “I have to stay with the blocks more.”
Pongasi said sometimes he’ll make a block and then stop and become a spectator instead of continuing to block his guy or finding somebody else to hit. It’s a common mistake.
Pongasi is coming off his best week as a receiver. He caught four passes for 59 yards against Spanish Springs. All four catches were for first downs.
Carson would love nothing more than to see Pongasi equal or better that effort tonight.