PASCAGOULA, Miss. (AP) — No member of the Pascagoula defense is in the opponent's offensive backfield more often than junior defensive end Caleb Caston.
At 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, Caston is one of the best defensive players on the coast and always a threat to rush the passer.
He was at his best last week when the Panthers (9-2) crushed West Jones, 38-6, with 38 unanswered points to close out the contest. In the game, Caston led Pascagoula with a career-high 13 tackles.
"It was probably one of the best games I've had throughout my career," Caston said.
While Caston has developed a strong reputation as a pass rusher, it was his play against the run during last week's game that most impressed Pascagoula head coach Lewis Sims.
"The 13 tackles against West Jones last week says a lot about what kind of a character he is," Sims said. "Against a running team, he was able to squeeze down against the run and play his responsibility. He's strong enough to wrap up and make a tackle on the running back."
At 7 p.m. on Friday at War Memorial Stadium in Pascagoula, it will be up to Caston and the rest of the Panthers' defense to hold its own in a second-round playoff game against the best running team in the state, No. 1 Picayune (11-0).
On Oct. 4, Picayune rolled over Pascagoula, 49-10, with 423 yards on the ground.
"It is kind of motivation to get payback and all," Caston said. "We all just have to read our keys and make sure the quarterback doesn't have the ball."
Sims is asking for much more out of his team this week headed into the Picayune contest.
"We've got to play a lot better, offensively and defensively. "You have to know what you're getting when you play a Picayune team. They will play hard for four quarters. Brookhaven found that out last week. They had a two-touchdown lead in the third quarter (and lost 69-42). They have the ability score and score quickly."
Caston already has the attention of schools like Ole Miss, Louisiana Tech and Louisiana-Lafayette, but a strong performance Friday night could help his case as one of the best defensive players in the state headed into his senior campaign.
Away from the field, Caston has many of the traits that colleges look for in a potential scholarship player.
"He's just an all-around good kid," Sims said. "He's very bright, picks up on schemes and understands what we're trying to do. He's a very physical player. He works out as hard as anybody we have. He's just an all-around good student in classroom.
"He's vital to our success because he's able to go out there and do some things. He frees us up in our defensive scheme because of his ability to rush the passer."
Caston, who will be a starter in the frontcourt for the Pascagoula basketball team when football season is complete, has six sacks so far this season.
Caston features the usual speed that most pass rushers need to get after the quarterback, but he's also refined the smaller details of getting after the quarterback.
"He uses his hands very well," Sims said. "He's very quick off the ball and he's able to put himself in position to get to the quarterback with the use of his hands."