High School Sports

Emerald Ridge’s Mitch Perantie, Daniel Flaherty are undersized but not outplayed on interior line

Mitch Perantie and Daniel Flaherty are all too familiar with the sit block.

It’s basically the opposite of a chop block. Instead of diving at the opposing players’ legs, you, well, sit on them.

Perantie is 5-feet-6, 160 pounds and Flaherty is 5-8, 185. They are almost too short to ride a Ferris wheel, yet they are the starting interior defensive linemen for the 4A South Puget Sound League South champion Emerald Ridge high school football team. The Jaguars (7-2, 5-0 4A SPSL South) face Eastlake on Friday at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup.

Flaherty said when Foster Sarell — Graham-Kapowsin’s 6-6, 310-pound offensive tackle and MaxPreps sophomore preseason All-American — charged to lay a block on him when they faced each other earlier this year, Flaherty dove for his legs. Sarell landed on him and a second G-K lineman then jumped on top of Sarell.

Double sit block.

“That probably happens 30-40 percent of the time,” Flaherty said, laughing. “When you have someone whose shoulder pads are so far down there, your reaction is to just go on top of them.”

Both Perantie and Flaherty were linebackers before being switched to the interior line. Perantie because he was asked to try it, and Flaherty because of injuries.

“I thought it was kind of crazy at first. I never thought I’d be playing nose guard in high school,” said Perantie, who has 3.5 sacks. “But that was my role. That’s what the team needed. I had to accept it.”

And they were good at it. So they stayed.

Clearly, neither possess the prototypical size for a position asked to absorb double teams. They don’t have the height or reach to bat down passes, and they don’t weigh more than the weight some linemen warm up with on the bench press.

“It’s amazing what they do,” said defensive end Brandon Carter, who leads the SPSL with 12 sacks. “I have asked them so many times, ‘How do you guys get by them so fast?’ And they’re always like, ‘I don’t know.’ ”

Both Perantie and Flaherty compete in wrestling in the winter. Both are exceptionally strong and explosive. Emerald Ridge co-coach Troy Halfaday said Flaherty is easily the pound-for-pound strongest player on the team.

Halfaday, too, was a converted nose tackle. He had played linebacker — and was an all-state center at Puyallup High School in the late 1980s, when Billy Joe Hobert was the starting quarterback — before he said injuries forced coaches to ask him to play defensive line. He said size is too often overrated in high school, anyway, because most of the larger players are still maturing and growing into their bodies.

“The smaller guys, they have more control,” Halfaday said. “(Perantie and Flaherty) are fast, they are quick, they are tenacious. And when you have those things, good things happen on the defensive line because it creates a lot of chaos.”

Co-coach Torey Donovan said he preferred blocking larger linemen when he was an offensive guard at Rogers.

“They couldn’t move,” Donovan said. “It was always easier. And Mitch and Danny both are pretty strong kids, even though they are small and tiny.”

But because they are smaller, or “vertically challenged” as Flaherty says, they play lower. They said they can explode between double teams by grabbing the legs of the offensive linemen and pulling themselves through.

And by using the element of surprise.

“People see us and they think we are so small. They look at us and are used to facing people 220, 230 (pounds),” said Flaherty, who is third in the SPSL with nine sacks. “They must, because you look at the film and the first play we are always in the backfield immediately.”

Perantie and Flaherty might as well embody Emerald Ridge. The Jaguars lost their first two games of the season but haven’t lost since, stunning reigning league champ G-K along the way. They weren’t expected to. They don’t have a player taller than 6-4. Only one starter on their defense weighs more than 200 pounds.

But they have got it done, anyway.

“We don’t have any D-1 athletes,” Halfaday said. “But you know what? The fact is, we are a D-1 team. People see big guys and they think they need to play. But it has nothing to do with size of the player. It’s the size of the heart.”

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