GCS senior linebackers look to finish what they started

DASHER –– Dante Sacco has played football for a long, long time. 

To put things in perspective, the hit song from the year he started playing was “Buy U A Drank” by T-Pain and Yung Joc. That’s right, Sacco first started playing in 2007.

John Lissimore may not quite have that much time playing, only two seasons, but he has come to enjoy and love the game just as much as his great friend, Sacco.

Sacco is from Valdosta and got his start playing football as a quarterback playing for the Boys and Girls Club in Valdosta. He said he fell in love with the game at an early age. 

Lissimore is a basketball kid that decided to pickup the sport of football a season ago and stated that it really has grown on him a lot. 

It’s not often that a player that has played for such a long time is able to create a bond with a player that has not played as long, but that is not the case for Sacco and Lissimore. That bond can be attributed to the Generals' motto for this year, “The Brotherhood.”

Generals head coach Chuck Knapp has done a great job instilling into his team the importance of creating a brotherhood and a family unit as a football team. 

When teams play as a family, they play stronger and harder to not let each other down. The ties are even deeper when you see each other as brothers. You always want to have your brother’s back.

That is certainly the case here. 

Sacco is an intriguing young man that certainly packs a lot of power in his punch on the field. He played quarterback in his early years but has played tailback since middle school and recently added linebacker to his resume’.

In a surprise, he mentioned that he actually enjoys and prefers linebacker to tailback, despite this being his first year playing it. In years past, he was a defensive end.

“I love both sides of the ball,” Sacco said. “But I think I love defense even more. The physicality of it is just so much more fun. I enjoy the physicality that comes with defense. I like being able to come up and lay the hammer on opposing players.”

Lissimore does many different things for the Generals out of Dasher, including playing forward on the basketball team.

On the gridiron, Lissimore plays wideout and linebacker and just last week added defensive end to his repertoire. 

“I play several different positions and I feel like I do well at them all,” Lissimore said. “But I feel like I am at my best when I am in the game at linebacker. I played that the most last year and, in my career, so that is probably where I am at my best. There isn’t a huge transition in playing linebacker and defensive end, but I do like linebacker more.”

“Offense is just fun, man,” Sacco said. “I have been playing offense for a long time and I really enjoy it. I like running the ball and running through the defenders. That is my favorite part. Just being able to be physical. That, and being able to score touchdowns of course!”

“I feel like my athleticism helps me a lot,” Lissimore said. “I play multiple positions for GCS and I feel that is due to being athletic. I see myself as a corner at the next level, if that is something that I am able to pursue.”

“I see myself as a defensive player at the next level, too,” Sacco echoed. “I don’t know if I have the size to stay at linebacker, but I could transition into a safety at the next level if I end up getting a chance to play.”

Both young men have been able to make significant gains in the weight room. With Knapp installing a year-round strength and conditioning program, several Generals have been able to benefit, including this linebacker duo.

“Sacco is a guy that completely transformed himself this offseason,” Knapp said. “I feel the same way about John. Both of these guys have lived in the weight room and certainly added some much-needed size and strength.”

Both young men have seen significant body transformations this offseason and have seen their max lifts increase significantly.

“I was able to improve a lot on both my bench press and my squat max reps this offseason,” Lissimore said. My max bench press shot up thirty pounds and my squat max shot up about 40-45 pounds as well. I am a lot stronger and feel more prepared for the games and practices.”

“I feel like the same thing has happened for me,” Sacco echoed. “Last year I felt like I was not very strong, but I was able to up my max bench press by forty pounds in the program Coach Knapp created for us. I also saw my squat max go up by 75 pounds, so I have seen some great gains. This definitely helps me be able to break tackles as a ballcarrier.”

Despite the loss to Valwood in the opener, Sacco made several defenders pay for attempting to tackle him. One play saw him break three tackles before being brought down. He is a powerful runner and the weight room has done much to establish that.

“I like to run the ball hard,” Sacco said. “It’s just fun. My favorite part is running over the defense. Against Skipstone, I had a bunch of broken tackles and one guy was pretty shaken up after trying to bring me down.”

Reminiscent of Miami Dolphins legend Larry Csonka.

Both young men hope to continue to suit up at the next level after high school.

“I hope to be able to continue my playing career after this season,” Lissimore said. “I really enjoy paying football and I hope to play in college. If I had a dream school, I would have to say that it would be Notre Dame. I just love the way that Notre Dame plays defense and I feel like I could fit in nicely with them.”

Sacco added, “I would love to continue playing football at the next level. I hope that I am able to. If I had every offer in the country, I would love to go play for the Oregon Ducks. I just like what they do. I like their high-flying offense. That is one program where I feel that I would be able to fit in as a tailback. They do a lot of special things and I think I have the build and speed to compete with them. I ran an unofficial time of 4.5 in the 40-yard dash, so I know I have the speed for the next level.”

Lissimore feels the Generals have the pieces to go a step further than their state semifinals appearance in 2019. The senior said his focus is on improving as a leader and being better at his position.

“I feel like as a unit, this team has the ability to not only play and compete for the state championship, but to win it all this year,” Lissimore said. “Obviously, there are some things that we can do to get us there. Personally, I know I need to get better at being a vocal leader, and, continuing to improve my game as a coverage linebacker.”

Sacco echoed Lissimore's expectations for the team, emphasizing the need to continuing developing the culture and team chemistry.

“We have a great team,” Sacco said. “We need to continue to build ‘The Brotherhood’ and hold each other accountable. I have to get better at being that senior leader that rallies the guys and gets us there. It starts with me and John. We are the leaders of the team and the leaders of the defense, so we have to do better at that. Then, I feel we will win the state championship this fall. My goal as a senior is to go over 700 yards rushing and break a ton of tackles and walk off the field as a champion.”

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