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Friday, December 03, 2010

Serra nose tackle Moala has a nose for the ball

David Moala has the size and intimidation thing down pretty well, but even being 6-foot-1 and 285 pounds doesn't always carry weight.
For one thing, he has yet to talk Serra coach Scott Altenberg into letting him play in the backfield instead of spending his entire night on the defensive line.
"I told Coach Altenberg to put me at fullback one time," Moala said.
"I don't care if it's to run the ball or to block, I just want to be back there."
"I'm sure he wouldn't mind," Altenberg responded, "but we're not getting him anywhere near that ball."
Actually, no one's going to stop Moala from getting near the ball from the other side of the line of scrimmage. The senior nose tackle is constantly around it, shredding offensive lines along the way.
He leads Serra with 16 1/2 sacks this season, leading to the obvious question from Altenberg: "When's the last time you heard of a nose guard leading your team in sacks?"
Especially one who is constantly double-teamed and is basically still learning how to play the position.
A year ago, Moala played defensive tackle before the coaching staff had a brainstorm. For the final game of the season, the State Division III championship bowl game, they installed him at nose tackle.
"He had like 15 tackles. It was insane," Altenberg said. "We were like, `Yeah, we're pretty smart coaches."'
So when Serra (12-0) takes on Paso Robles (10-2) tonight in the CIF
Southern Section Western Division semifinals, it will plant Moala in the middle of the field at nose tackle to see if the Bearcats have any success against him.
Moala leads Serra with 72 tackles and 16 1/2 sacks this season. He had 12 1/2 sacks a year ago, but was overshadowed by defensive end Jason Gibson.
Until a few checks of the videotape, that is.
"We noticed that teams were running away from (Moala) because he was such a push, which led to Jason Gibson's amazing year, because teams kept running at Gibson," Altenberg said. "The whole time we're thinking `Why are teams running at Gibson? That doesn't make any sense.' It really was (Moala).
"We put him at nose, and it makes it much more difficult for teams to pick a side."
If they bother to run at all. For many of Serra's opponents, it's been let the quarterback fade back and scramble around to try and make a play.
At some point, though, they'll be reminded that Moala is on the field, even if he has taken to the nose position rather reluctantly.
Still, he realizes the move has helped him.
"I make more plays at nose, I'm getting sacks at nose and it's been good," Moala said. "It's a lot of responsibility taking on so many guys.
"I look at it and I see Jason come off the edge, and I see Woodson (Greer) and Suli (Faletuipapai) come off the edge, then when the quarterback has nowhere else to go, he has to step up so he steps up to me. So it's been pretty good. When they can't finish up, then I finish up for them."
Along the way, he's learned that he could follow in the footsteps of some family members, like cousins Haloti Ngata of the Baltimore Ravens and Fili Moala of the Indianapolis Colts.
"That's inspired me a lot," Moala said. "If one Tongan can make it, I can make it too."
First things first, though. He is focusing on helping Serra complete a second consecutive undefeated season and keeping thoughts of scholarships in the back of his mind.
He has some offers, but wants to wait until after the season to concentrate on the recruiting game.
A year ago, he didn't have the burden he carries this season. In 2009, he was a cog in the machine led by All-America receiver Robert Woods. This year, he has had to develop into one of the team leaders.
"Last year, we were depending on some seniors," Moala said. "This year, we've got to depend on ourselves, we have nobody else to look back onto, like we can depend on. We've got to depend on ourselves to make plays.
"People think we won it because of Woody last year. We're trying to come in here and match that and try to keep this dynasty up and keep this legacy going, this journey."
On a team of stars, Moala is beginning to shine as brightly as any.
"Defensively, right now, I'd have to say he's our MVP," Altenberg said. "He's just been out of this world. Teams cannot deal with him.
He's just a consistent force.
"He's a great offensive lineman too, but we pulled him off the line because his motor's so amazing on defense when he's just going one way. We don't want to take away from it."
phil.collin@dailybreeze.com

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