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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Seattle PI Defensive MVP Jamal Atofau

The Seattle Times PI has named Bellevue's Jamal Atofau their defensive MVP, also selected to the first team defense were Auburn linebacker Jeff Gouveia, and Lakes' Sione Potoa'e.

By DARREN FESSENDEN
SPECIAL TO THE P-I

Bellevue senior strong safety Jamal Atofau wants to turn WSU's Swiss cheese defense back into the Palouse Posse circa 1994.

Perhaps that's why Atofau turned down offers from Arizona, Boise State, Oregon and Oregon State to help bail out struggling co-defensive coordinators Chris Ball and Jody Sears. In their first season, they oversaw the worst scoring defense in the history of major college football.

They're not going anywhere, and neither is first-year coach and Cougar alumnus Paul Wulff. WSU's coaching stability impressed Atofau, who gave his oral committment over the phone in October.

"I let him know that I'm behind him 100 percent, and that I want to try to be a part of something real big the next few years," said back then.

A nephew of former Cougars legend Jack Thompson and cousin of current Cougar Tony Thompson, Atofau will reunite with former Wolverines teammate Eric Block ('07), a redshirt freshman who was recruited by Bill Doba's coaching staff.

The 5-10, 185-pounder, who plans on competing in spring practices after graduating early, just helped lead Bellevue (14-0) to its sixth state championship since 2001.

The Wolverines' 35-6 dismantling of second-year school Union on Saturday afternoon at the Tacoma Dome proved why their defense needs to be mentioned in the same breath as that of 4A champion Skyline.

The Titans (13-1) didn't muster a play over 20 yards until the final snap of the third quarter.

Atofau was a huge reason why, with an interception to go along with numerous tackles -- including three for losses.

Bellevue outscored its opponents -- which included teams from California and Oregon as well as 4A semifinalist Bothell -- in the first half this season 364-33 thanks to a suffocating defense.

The same type of defense Atofau hopes to bring with him to Pullman.

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Jeff Gouveia

Auburn, senior

WHAT HE DID: With nearly 100 tackles, 31 touchdowns and more than 1,200 rushing yards, Gouveia was named offensive back of the year and co-defensive lineman of the year (front seven) in the SPSL North.

HOW HE DID IT: With junior star Chris Young and senior Carlo Lavoie (single-season school-record holder for interceptions) behind, Gouveia had little worries in the Trojans' 3-3-5 defense. "If I missed a tackle, then I knew they had my back," said the 5-11, 220-pounder middle linebacker. "I didn't have to do anything except stop the run."

WHAT HE'LL DO NEXT: Gouveia, who said that Boise State, UW and WSU have shown interest, is the defensive specialist for the undefeated Trojans.

Sione Potoa'e

Lakes, junior

WHAT HE DID: The 6-2, 280-pound Potoa'e dominated the interior of the Lakes offensive line all season after missing his sophomore season with a stress fracture in his leg. He's the SPSL 3A offensive lineman of the year and considered one of the top state recruits in the class of 2010.

HOW HE DID IT: When Potoa'e talked about what inspires him to work hard as an athlete, he credits his family and his girlfriend, Victoria, for their unending support.

WHAT HE'LL DO NEXT: This winter, Potoa'e will do a lot of weight training and plans on competing in the throws in track this spring. His goal is to help the Lancers win the 3A state football title in 2009.

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