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Sunday, December 06, 2009

Grant’s big man still yet to turn 17

By Joe Davidson
jdavidson@sacbee.com

Mike Alberghini says to wait until the lad is 17. That left me to wonder, is that a warning or a promise? Alberghini is the Grant High School football coach who was raving about the enormous upside of his enormous defensive tackle, Vei Moala. He's No. 55 on the roster, with the size-16 feet, the Earl Campbell thighs and shovel-like hands. He's the unblockable one with the sort of grades, talent and ferocity that make him a national recruit. As a 16-year old junior.

Moala is 6-foot-3 and 340 pounds. Check his side profile. No gut, straight up and down, a virtual quarter-ton of Polynesian pride. If a tough guy in the trenches is your thing, Moala is your man tonight in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division II semifinal against Rocklin that pits The Bee's two highest-ranked teams the second half of the season.

Moala is the top stopper on the top defense in the state. Maybe the top defense anywhere. Grant has 77 sacks, bettering by three the season state record set in 1987 by Carson High. The Pacers lead all large-school programs in the country in sacks. They lead all schools of any size west of the Rockies in this category. They need a nickname. How about the Grand Avenue Sack Exchange after the school's street address?

Grant's defensive efforts this season have been the most impressive prep efforts I have seen since Elk Grove set national total offensive yardage records in 1998 with Ryan Dinwiddie and Lance Briggs.

Without helmets, the Grant defenders are a friendly, jovial and polite lot. In gear, they're terrors seeking tackles. Four teams have scored on Grant this season. The Pacers have come up with 40 takeaways. Moala has 15 sacks and Puka Lopa 19.

A defensive end, Lopa is only a junior, too. As is linebacker Darryl Paulo. And defensive end Caleb Cameron. And safety James Sample. They're not all juniors, the Grand Avenue Sack Exchange. Shaq Thompson, a playmaking cornerback recruit, is a sophomore.

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