October 24, 2006
The Hug Hawks will have to play the rest of this Northern 4A football season without one of the best players in the region.
Head coach Rollins Stallworth said earlier this week that defensive tackle PJ Utuutuvanu has been dismissed from the team because he violated team rules.
"It is a real sad situation," Stallworth said. "It was a very difficult thing for me to do because P.J. is such a neat kid. But I just felt I had to set an example for all of our young players on the team. I just felt I had to do something."
Stallworth said the 6-foot-2, 280-pound Utuutuvanu had been suspended for two games earlier this season for violating team rules.
"The sad thing about all of this is that he's a hell of a player," Stallworth said. "I really feel that he would have gotten serious consideration for Defensive Player of the Year."
Stallworth said offensive lineman Uli Kofutua (OL/DL, 6'3, 270, Sr) replaced Utuutuvanu on the defensive line in the Hawks' 16-7 victory over Damonte Ranch on Friday.
"I was proud of the way the kids responded in that game," Stallworth said. "After what happened with P.J., you never know how the kids might respond. But it was a very rewarding victory because it showed that the kids are putting that behind them and moving on."
The Hawks, who won the Northern 4A Regional title last year, are 4-5 overall this season and 4-2 in the Sierra League. They wrap up the regular season with a game at South Tahoe on Saturday.
"It's been a very difficult year for us," said Stallworth, who has guided the Hawks to the playoffs every year since 2000. "We've had to deal with a lot of adversity that we didn't have to deal with last year.
"We've just had so many injuries this year. Last week we lost two more guys (linebacker Tali Kavapalu [LB, 6'1, 195, Jr] and lineman Oswaldo Pineda) to knee injuries. It's just been that type of year.
"We only got (running back) Derick Pierce back last week at full strength. It was the first time he could play both running back and linebacker full-time for us."
The Hawks began the year with four losses but have won four of their last five games.
"A lot of people were wondering what was wrong with us," Stallworth said. "We lost our first four games, we lost to North Valleys for the first time, we lost the Harrah's Bowl (to Douglas) for the first time in a couple years and we're not going to win the Sierra League for the first time in a few years.
"But we have a chance to win five of our last six games if we win Saturday and we'd made the playoffs again for the seventh year in a row. In years past, if we would have done that I could have run for mayor and won. But that's how far we've raised the expectations around here, I guess. And that's a good thing."