West Deptford's Nick Diaco a rare QB who also plays defensive end

Nick Diaco isn't a quarterback who also plays defensive end.

He's a defensive end who has developed into a surprisingly efficient and effective quarterback for South Jersey's last undefeated football team.

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West Deptford quarterback Nick Diaco (2) tries to leap over Paulsboro's Tyrique King. Diaco ran for a TD and threw for another in a 21-18 win.

"He's been throwing the ball great," West Deptford coach Clyde Folsom said of Diaco, a tight end in his high school past and his collegiate future. "He's made such great strides as a quarterback this season."

Diaco will lead West Deptford (11-0) against Cedar Creek (9-2) in the South Jersey Group 2 championship game Sunday at Rowan University.

For Diaco, it's a chance to finish a perfect season as a senior and also to help the Eagles capture their seventh sectional crown since the program's championship-filled run began in 2002.

Beyond that, it's a chance for Diaco to end his last football game as a quarterback with a trophy in his hands. "This is what we've been dreaming about for four years," he said. "To finish that way, it would be awesome."

Lots of quarterbacks play defense, although most of them line up in the secondary. Some are linebackers. Very few are defensive linemen, given the disparity in the demands of the two positions.

It's almost a completely different skill set, from the controlled orchestration of the offense on one side of the football to the physical challenge of playing in the trenches on the other side.

For the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Diaco, it's a smooth transition. Folsom said Diaco's "intelligence" is a big part of his success on defense, and his physical toughness is one of the keys to his play on offense.

"I love to play with that physical mind-set," Diaco said. "I like to play both [quarterback and defensive end] the same way, with as much toughness as I can."

Diaco's versatility was evident in West Deptford's hard-fought, 21-18 victory over Thanksgiving weekend rival Paulsboro on Saturday.

On offense, Diaco ran for one touchdown and fired a 38-yard pass to senior Paz Gismondi for another. On defense, Diaco registered three sacks and put constant pass-rush pressure on Paulsboro quarterback Kyle Jones.

"He's so smart [on defense]," Folsom said. "He figured out what they were doing and he took advantage of it."

Diaco has rushed 116 times for 970 yards and 12 touchdowns for the season. As a passer, he is 15 for 41 for 412 yards and four touchdowns with just one interception.

Diaco has made an oral commitment to Colgate, where he projects as a tight end. He played that position for West Deptford as a sophomore and junior.

Sunday, he likely will play his last game at quarterback. "I'll miss it," he said. "It's been a lot of fun."

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@PhilAnastasia

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