M-A's line impressive once again
Publication Date: Wednesday Oct 30, 1996

PREP FOOTBALL: M-A's line impressive once again

Blocking key's 61-0 win over Sequoia as Bears rush for 301 yards

by Rick Eymer

William Tuupo, Isi Tuanaki, Sam Finau, Tupo Tuupo and John Heinz are a big reason why Menlo-Atherton owns a share of first place in the Peninsula Athletic League South Division. Unless you're a student at M-A, and even then it's iffy, you may not have heard much about these guys. Yet, they anchor a Bears' team that is in solid contention for a league title entering the regular season's final three weeks.

Menlo-Atherton (7-1 overall), actually only has two games during that time. Burlingame, scheduled to be M-A's opponent Friday night, forfeited the game as punishment after numerous Burlingame players were ejected from last weekend's game with Capuchino after a fight erupted and both benches emptied. The forfeit means M-A now is 6-1 in league (7-1 overall).

That gives M-A's big offensive line a deserved week off. These five guys, all 1,267 combined pounds of them, started on the offensive line for M-A in its 61-0 PAL victory over Sequoia last Friday afternoon. Octavio Perez and Louis Powell (and their additional 422 pounds) also have seen extensive action on the line this season, but it's the Tuupo brothers, Finau, Tuanaki and Heinz who have done yeoman duty in the trenches.

"Just the feeling that we've blocked somebody for the running backs, that's our glory right there," center William Tuupo said. "When they get some yards, that's the thing."

"If we don't get somebody, that play is dead," Finau said. "We want that mental dominance over defensive players. On runs, we want to blow them off."

Against Sequoia the Bears accumulated 301 rushing yards, 343 total yards on just 30 offensive plays (that's 11.4 yards a play if you're counting), thereby demonstrating its superiority over the enemy.

A week earlier, the Bears accumulated 414 yards in their victory over Hillsdale.

"The line gets rewarded on Mondays," M-A coach Henry Ford said. "They aren't forgotten."

Rewards are passed out in the form of stars and bears, which are attached to helmets. The offensive line gets a bear for a shutout, for blocking in a game M-A gains 300 or 400 yards, and team members earn stars for individual things like sacks, interceptions, recovering fumbles and knocking down passes. Two offensive linemen--Heinz and Tupo Tuupo--even earned Player of the Week honors, which is good for a handful of Whoppers at the local Burger King.

"That's why, if you look, their helmets are so full of stars and bears," Ford said. "On Mondays, they look for that stuff."

Offensive linemen usually toil in relative obscurity, leaving the headlines for guys like quarterback Matt Boettcher, who attempted (and completed) just two passes against Sequoia, one for a touchdown on the Bears' first play from scrimmage. But when someone like Peni Likio, who rushed for 124 yards and four touchdowns on Friday, or Alvin Hill, who's also gained over 100 yards in a game this season, have a big afternoon, you know the offensive line has been involved.

"Look at this game," Ford said. "Look at the number of touchdowns (seven) we scored on the ground today. That had to come from the line."

"We just go out with the mental approach that we know what we're doing," said William Tuupo. "This whole team is close. It's like a second family."

So close, that following one recent victory, the Tuupo family took the entire line out for dinner, including the tight end. Of course, running backs and defensive players also were invited.

"We just want to stay together as a group during the season," Finau said.

Even with Burlingame's forfeit, improving M-A to 6-1 (7-1), the Bears aren't looking too far down the road leading to the Central Coast Section playoffs.

"I'm not focused on the CCS," said William Tuupo. "I'm still learning. Our goal is to have a one-game winning streak 10 times in a row. We still have to earn respect in this league."

In addition to Lilkio's four touchdowns (3, 17, 41 and 5 yards), and Boettcher's 24-yard touchdown pass to James Julian, the Bears also scored on a 69-yard run by sophomore Clayton Hathorne, an 8-yard run by Dante Fairley, a 24-yard run by Justin Sharp, and on a recovered fumble in the end zone by Samisoni Naufahu. Billy Lynch helped cause that fumble, one of six (losing two) on the day by Sequoia. Champ Roth also recovered a fumble.

The defense, in addition to forcing fumbles, also forced three interceptions (Nestor Menjivar, Saimone Nai, Justin Sharp) and blocked a punt (Heinz, recovered by Joe Tautuaa). In all, the Cherokees were limited to 80 total yards. 

Back up to the Table of Contents Page