Highland junior Nick Corvo stands just 6 feet tall and weighs 210 pounds.
That’s good size for a defensive back or even a linebacker, but Corvo is the starting defensive end for a 13-0 Hornets team that has made history by advancing to the Division II state semifinals against Glenville (12-0) at Byers Field.
How does a guy the size of Corvo manage to hold his own against guys outweighing him by a significant margin and put up excellent numbers?
Simple: Speed, technique and toughness.
“He’s a strong kid and a tenacious worker,” Highland coach Tom Lombardo said. “He loves to practice and he just loves football. I think rugged would be a good word to describe him.”
Corvo is fifth on the team with 45 tackles, leads it with 7½ sacks and is deadlocked with Grant Wallace with 13 tackles for loss.
“He’s good against the run and the pass,” Lombardo said. “He can pressure the quarterback and, like a linebacker, he can run and make plays. His motor is always running.”
With responsibilities varying from outside contain on running plays to pressuring the quarterback on passing plays, the ends are critical pieces to any successful defense.
“When we look at players we have to go up against, I see guys that are 290 pounds on paper,” Corvo said. “I’ve gone against tons of huge kids — some that are going to a Division I college — it doesn’t matter. My focus is on how to get around them. It doesn’t matter who is in front of me.”
That mentality has helped Corvo and his teammates make big plays and big stops against pretty potent offenses.
Two weeks ago it was a 17-14 win over freshman phenom Danny Clark and tradition-rich Massillon, last week it was an Avon offense averaging 38 points per game that the Hornets stopped 24-21.
“We are much stronger than we were at the beginning of the season,” Corvo said. “We’ve had some big games, and we know what’s at stake. We know the players the other teams have, and we focus in on them and make sure it doesn’t happen for them.”
While Bruce Kinsey, Alex Harris and Cory Moncol are the wheels that make the offense run, Corvo has had some pretty significant impact on that side of the ball as well.
When the Hornets need a tough yard or two, Lombardo isn’t afraid to call on Corvo to lead the way for Kinsey or Harris through the hole or lug the ball to convert.
He had the Hornets’ first touchdown in the win over Avon, powering in from a yard out with three defenders on his back.
“He’s a tough kid,” Lombardo said. “He’s a rugged fullback we use in certain personnel situations. He can lead block or run the ball on the goal line like the play against Avon. He’s a hard-nosed guy who is tough and rugged for his size.”
Corvo, who would like to continue playing football in college and has an interest in sports medicine, knows the next step is a big one against another talented and tradition-laden program.
“We’ve heard of Marshon Lattimore (scholarship offers from Ohio State and Alabama among 16 others) and a lot of other players with Division I offers,” he said. “We’ve faced tons of teams with highly ranked players, but what it comes down to is who is better as a team. We will stick together and won’t let it get into our heads.”
One of those big D-I players that Corvo could be lined up across from Friday is 6-4, 325-pound Ohio State recruit Marcelys Jones, but don’t expect Corvo to be intimidated by the size or what college any of the Tarblooders are going to.
He’ll will do exactly what he’s done all year — lace ’em up and buckle his chinstraps and, above else, do whatever it takes.
“It is dedication to my team,” he said. “I’ll sacrifice my body to just help pull off a win for my teammates — whatever I have to do and whatever it takes for me to do my job.”
Contact Chad Grant at firstname.lastname@example.org.