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Friday, September 11, 2009


(09-10) 20:47 PDT -- When 17th-ranked Utah faces San Jose State at Spartan Stadium on Saturday night, the line of scrimmage will be a family affair.

San Jose State junior guard Ailao Eliapo will represent every younger brother who wanted to prove his mettle to an older brother.

Across from him, playing defensive tackle for the Utes, senior Kenape Eliapo will fight for every older brother who wanted to keep a younger brother in his place.

"One is not backing away from the other," said their father, Kenape Sr. "There's no backing down."

The brothers, who went to South San Francisco High, have known about the matchup for months.

"I told him to bring his 'A' game. I'm going to bring my game." Kenape Jr. said.

Said Ailao: "For the past two weeks, we've been talking about it every day. He tells me what I should get better on. He'll tell me stuff that he feels he needs to get better on."

The opportunity to get the better of your brother, that's motivation that has built for two decades.

"They will play their best," their father said. "I'm pretty sure this will be their best performance."

"Knowing that he's lined up against me," Kenape Jr. said of Ailao, "he's going to elevate his game."

Their respective head coaches describe Kenape Jr. and Ailao in similar terms.

Utah's Kyle Whittingham said Kenape is "a blue-collar-type of player. He's not really flashy. He's self-made."

The Spartans' Dick Tomey termed Ailao as "somebody who worked very hard to be a good football player."

Saturday night will mark the first time the brothers have gone at each other in a football game. They do have one official mano a mano experience. After his senior football season at South City, Kenape took up wrestling. Following his older brother's lead, Ailao also went to the mat.

Ailao remembers that in practices, he outperformed his brother. "I thought this was my niche," Ailao said. "I was better than him."

Then in a tournament, they faced each other in a heavyweight-division final.

"We got in the circle and we started laughing," Ailao recalled. "I was just like, 'What are we going to do?' We just kept laughing. ...

"And then, next thing you know, I found myself being pinned. And I was like, 'What happened?' "

Ailao doesn't hide his admiration for his older brother. Ailao said Kenape Jr. "has a big heart. ... That big heart, it runs deep within our family. ... I respect him and I thank him for (being) a role model for me."

Saturday will be a happening for the Eliapo family. The brothers' cousin, freshman Jeremiah Tofaeono of Las Vegas, is a reserve lineman for the Utes. Kenape Sr., the minister at First Congregational Christian Church of Samoa in San Francisco, and his wife, Tunufai, figure there will be about 140 family members - including daughters Cassandra and Lohina - and friends at the game.

Many of those 140 folks will wear T-shirts with Ailao's No. 73 and Kenape's No. 92 on the front and a solitary "Eliapo" on the back.

As proud as Kenape Sr. and Tunufai are about having their two sons on the field, they naturally have some trepidation. Football, after all, is a contact/collision sport.

"I'm very happy and excited just seeing them come together," Kenape Sr. said, "but I don't think I'll be at ease until the game is over."

Before the game begins, Kenape Jr.'s words to his brother should set the stage:

"Are you ready? Let's go out there and play for our family. Represent."

Kenape Jr. and Ailao will represent their family, their schools and all those older and younger brothers.

The Eliapos

Kenape Ailao
School Utah SJSU
Class Senior Junior
Position DT G
Height 6-0 6-3
Age 23 20

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