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Friday, August 17, 2007

High school football: Tialavea hopes to lead Kearns to postseason

By Dan Rasmussen
Deseret Morning News
Published: August 17, 2007
KEARNS — He stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 210 pounds. He has clocked the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds and has a 37-inch vertical leap.

Physically, he has it all.

And if he can put it all together this fall, opposing teams better watch out.

"It's like I tell the recruiters, he is probably the most athletic overall (player) in the state," Kearns coach Bill Cosper says of his three-year starting quarterback, R.J. Tialavea. "If he just builds the confidence in himself, the sky's the limit for him with his athletic ability."

On the eve of the prep football season, there is a lot of hope inside Kearns' program. And a lot of it has to do with the senior signal-caller, who says he's just looking forward to getting on the field.

"I'm really excited, just being a senior (and) being a leader for all these guys," he says.

Cosper has been working with Tialavea since he accepted an offer to coach the team last year. And he says the star quarterback has matured a lot during that time.

"I think the biggest change I've seen in R.J. is his communication," says Cosper. "When I got here, he was very withdrawn, hardly would talk to anybody.

"Now, you can sit down and talk to him, have fun with him and have good conversations with him...I think that's the biggest thing, which has also helped his maturity on the football field. He's just one of those quiet leaders."

Tialavea started as a sophomore but missed significant chunks of the season because of injury. As a junior a year ago, he threw for 547 yards, rushed for 290 and accounted for six touchdowns.

Arguably his biggest touchdown came in the final game of the season when he scored during Kearns' stunning 17-14 upset over rival Hunter.

Tialavea rushed for a one-yard touchdown in the contest, helping the Cougars beat their arch rival for just the second time in school history.

And for the first time since 1990.

"It's positive for the kids and the program and the community itself, because it's such a big rivalry. It's like I was tellin' everybody last year: This is my 12th year in high school (coaching), and it was as physical a high school game that I've ever been involved in," says Cosper, who has extensive coaching experience in Texas.

For Kearns, gaining bragging rights over Hunter was huge.

"It's funny," says junior running back Toa Afatasi, "because, before the game, that whole week we were just gettin' trash thrown at us and all this crap talked about us how Hunter was gonna beat us.

"We shut 'em right when that game ended."

The win over Hunter allowed Kearns to finish its season with three wins and gave the Cougars plenty of optimism going forward.

With Tialavea at the controls, they'll look to build on that huge win this fall.

Beyond high school, Tialavea says he wants to play college football at the University of Utah.

"I really want to go to Utah, but I'm just waiting to see what happens," he says.

However, if he has a big senior season, Cosper thinks there will be plenty of competition for his signature.

"If it goes his way," says Cosper, "I think he can play anywhere."

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