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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Family affair on M-A's line

Three Mataeles and their cousin play football for the Bears this season Football teams function as a family, a band of brothers that spills blood on the field.

The Menlo-Atherton Bears feature strong blood ties on their lines, where several family members assume three-point stances.

Paula, Semisi and Ausia Mataele form a trio of siblings who suit up for M-A. Their cousin, Malakai, also plays for the Bears.

"We are a family of lineman," Malakai said. "I want to make our family and school proud."

And the Mataeles off the field might serve as the 12th man. At home games, the boys' relatives pack a portable bleacher flanked to the right of the grandstand.

"You can always see them sitting over there," Malakai said.

"They are good kids and a great family," M-A second-year coach Bob Sykes said. "They are all very dedicated to football."

Paula, a returning senior who stands at 5-11, 230 pounds, starts at offensive tackle and defensive end. Against Saratoga and Independence, the 17-year-old recorded eight unassisted and 12 assisted tackles.

"He's pretty versatile and fast at any position on the line," Sykes said.

Malakai stands at 5-11 and weighs 330 pounds at defensive tackle. The senior compiled 15 unassisted and 22 assisted tackles prior to Saturday's 24-14 loss to Valley Christian. He also switched from center to guard this year.

"It's a been a lot smoother than I thought," the 17-year-old said.

The move created an opening, which sophomore Semisi filled with his 5-10, 280 pound frame. The 15-year-old played on the freshman squad last year. His smooth transition to varsity impressed Sykes.

"He has been doing a good job," Sykes said. "I feel real good about him."

"He just needs a little more work and he'll be set," Paula said.

Ausia saw little playing time in non-league action. Regardless, he will have more opportunities. He is only a freshman.

The 14-year-old already carries the size to become an effective lineman. The Bears list Ausia at 5-11, 344 pounds.

"He may be the youngest, but he's the biggest," Paula said. "He needs to work on his explosion out of his stance, but I think he will start next year on varsity."

The Mataeles are Tongan. Paula, Semisi and Ausia grew up in East Menlo before moving to East Palo Alto, where Malakai already resided.

All regularly attend church at Abundant Life.

"And we like to hang out and do a lot of other stuff together," Malakai said.

Paula and Malakai first started playing football as freshmen. During that period they also picked up another sport with contact - rugby.

The East Palo Alto Razorbacks, a 19-and-under rugby club, use their talent when away from the gridiron.

Which sport do they prefer?

Paula, who intends to continue with football at Foothill College, lent his opinion.

"Football." he said. "Yeah, definitely. You can go somewhere with that."

Malakai remains uncertain where he will button the chin strap next fall.

Viking ties

Another cousin plays football at Palo Alto, even though he doesn't play on the line.

Sione Mataele, the 6'0, 260 pound fullback and linebacker, rejoins the Vikings after leading the squad to the D-II state title game against Orange Lutheran in 2006.

"We all went down to L.A. to watch that game," Malakai said. "It was too bad my cousin lost, but it was a good experience."

"He's doing it over there," Paula said. "I didn't know he would be a star."

The senior Viking has scored four touchdowns this year.

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