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  • Staff Photo by GRANT MORRIS

    Facebook - Grant Morris of the Nashua Telegraph

    Nashua High School South's Derek Paradis sprints toward the end-zone after receiving a punt during Friday night's game against Manchester Memorial at Stellos Stadium in Nashua. The run resulted in South's only score in the first quarter.
  • Photo by Jodie Andruskevich^^Nashua South runningback Derek Paradis looks for daylight as Pinkerton linebacker Mike Mazzola comes into the play.
  • Staff Photo by Grant Morris

    South's Derek Paradis runs the ball, Thursday afternoon during The Turkey Bowl, Thursday afternoon, against Nashua North.
Thursday, October 6, 2011

South’s Paradis making a name for himself

No one ever told Derek Paradis that he needed to be the next David Zocco, the outstanding two-way player who led the Nashua High School South football team to a state championship three years ago.

But when Paradis hit the field as a sophomore starter two years ago, he just happened to be playing the same positions as Zocco. Paradis gained over 1,000 yards as a running back, a feat he’d repeat last fall.

He became a very good strong safety, earning first-team All-State honors last fall. But the next David Zocco?

“I never felt like I was taking over for him,” Paradis said. “He was the Gatorade Player of the Year, obviously, there was no way I was going to take his spot.”

If Zocco did everything for the Panthers three years ago, one of the keys to the team’s 2011 title chances might be a more varied role for Paradis.

He’s now sharing the feature back position with fellow senior Armond McRae, one of the most dangerous offensive players in the state. He’s become an outstanding blocker and is a much better pass receiver than he was two years ago, allowing coach Scott Knight to line Paradis up in a slot position in his spread offense.

“He obviously had big shoes to fill as a sophomore,” Knight said, “and he did a great job. He got better last year, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

“Now he’s a senior who has gotten a little bit faster and considerably stronger. He understands the slot position, runs good pass patterns and he just loves to block.”

In the last four games, it’s pretty obvious how the roles have changed. McRae has carried the ball 88 times for 507 yards. Paradis has 34 carries for 244 yards. But in a key 31-6 victory over Manchester Memorial two week ago, Paradis added an 87-yard kickoff return and a 104-yard interception return.

“To be honest, I really don’t worry about the stats,” Paradis said. “The important thing is to win.

“Last year I got 20 carries a game and he (McRae) got 10. We share the weight. I block for him and he blocks for me.”

Knight first noticed his speed as an eighth-grader and by the end of his freshman year Paradis was donning a varsity uniform on Saturday afternoon. He actually took the field in South’s epic 33-32 title game victory at Pinkerton Academy, watching Zocco score five touchdowns and dominate on the defensive side of the ball.

“They put me out on a couple of kickoff teams,” Paradis said. “It was scary and it was so cold.”

Now it seems the fear factor has been eliminated.

“I’m one of those kids who is not scared to hit anyone,” Paradis said. “I really don’t care.”

And while Paradis sees himself as a free safety at the next level, with Stonehill, Assumption and Endicott high on his list, part of the evolution of the South team means less time on the defensive side for Paradis, with junior Josh Castro developing into a capable free safety.

Depth seemed to be a factor in South’s second half collapse against Pinkerton in a 56-14 loss in Week 2. To contend for a title, that game was a blueprint for how South needed to improve on both sides of the ball.

“I feel like our defense this year is the strongest it’s been since I’ve been here,” Paradis said. “We saw things in the Pinkerton game that we had to do a lot better. Our goal is to win a championship, so we have to get better.”

And Paradis is willing to fill any role to make that happen.