Friday, September 10, 2010

Cal The Leader For Moala & His Teammates

Villiami "Tiny" Moala
Faigame "Puka" Lopa
Moala, who goes by Vei, is part of one of the strongest prep defensive lines in recent memory, along with fellow linemen Darryl Paulo and Faigame Lopa. Last season Grant Union's defense allowed only 68 points and shut out six teams. The Pacers set a state record with 77 sacks.

Moala, now a senior and 6-foot-2 and 330 pounds, was called a bulldozer by one observer. He had 105 tackles and 15 sacks last season, earning the Sacramento Bee newspaper's All-Metro team defensive MVP honors.

Nicknamed "Tiny," Moala can bench a staggering 495 pounds. His coach, Mike Alberghini, likens his hands to shovels.

Alberghini likes to tell the story about how he often spotted Moala watching from the stands during the 2006 season. Eventually he had to ask the 300-pound kid why he wasn't playing football: Moala replied he was only 13.

Darryl Paulo
Four years ago, Moala never thought he’d even play football, let alone be in a starting lineup. While he liked watching Grant games on the weekends, he was first and foremost a rugby player. Moala’s family hails from Tonga, an island nation in the South Pacific that counts rugby as its national sport.

"It’s pretty big among the Polynesians here," Moala says.

But many athletes of Tongan descent — such as Haloti Ngata, a defensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens who grew up in Inglewood — have also found success in football. It took some trickery to get Moala to join that group.

One day when Viliami was in the eighth grade, Sione [Moala's older brother] told him to grab his cleats for a rugby game. Sione then drove him to the park, dropped him off and kept driving. Turns out the rugby game was actually a practice for a youth football team. Sione had pulled a fast one on him.

But rather than try to find a way home, Moala decided to give football a shot. It’s a choice he’s glad he made. For starters, he met his best friend, Faigame "Puka" Lopa, who’s now a star senior defensive end/offensive tackle for Grant. And he realized he should’ve been playing football all along.

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