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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Three Samoan football players make history for DSU

Three American Samoan football players have made history in the US state of Mississippi — the three student athletes are leading Delta State University...

to the Division II National Championship game next week Saturday against the top ranked team in the nation, Minnesota - Duluth “Bulldogs”.

According to gostatesmen.com, this will be the second appearance for both Delta State and Minnesota - Duluth in the NCAA Division II Football Championship game.

Delta State reached the title game in 2000 and destroyed Bloomsburg in a 63 - 34 victory under head coach Selev Cambell to win the National Championship, the website notes, while current Minnesota - Duluth head coach Bob Nielson also led the Bulldogs to the 2008 Championship game where they were defeated by Northwest Missouri State in a 21- 14 loss for the national championship title.

The three Samoan student athletes are seniors Hollan Fiu, Phillip Yandall, and Eljae Faoagali. These three Samoan players are all natives of American Samoa, who were all born and raised here on island.

Leading the Statesmen to claiming this year’s Gulf South Conference Championship title, Fiu, Yandall, and Faoagali played their hearts out in the march to the title match, which the team had not seen since ten years ago. This is also the first time DSU’s Head Coach Ron Roberts has made it to a national championship match up.

Samoa News got a chance to speak to all three DSU Samoan players this week on the phone.

HOLLAND FIU

Delta State University’s Hollan Fiu, is a speedy outside linebacker — being used to attack the ball from the outside and contain on medium passing plays for DSU’s defensive unit.

Hollan, a graduate of Tafuna High School in 2006, made his debut appearance in college football, when he first appeared at the New Mexico Military Institute in 2006, and his popularity came out from there as a starting middle linebacker.

At Tafuna High School, Hollan played all four years for the Warriors, and to top it off, he lead the Warriors to an ASHSAA Championship title in the 2005 - 2006 football season. At the conclusion of the season, Hollan was named as the Most Valuable Player of the League. He played as a free safety for Tafuna.

Today, his ASHSAA football league record as a defensive player for interceptions and yardage achieved during his 2005-06 senior year in Tafuna High School still stands.

He was known as Tafuna’s All Purpose player who not only played defense, but offense as a back up running back, as well as a kick off return for the Warriors, who recorded three touchdown returns in one season.

The 6’1”,  225lb  senior from DSU, is the son of Fa’aiu Fiu and Hana Fiu of Iliili.

Out of six siblings, Hollan is the third from the oldest which makes him the middle child of the family. During his time on island, he was a member of the Assembly of God Ieova Saloma youth member in Iliili, and he sends his love for his church, “I want to send my love to my church, and our pastor for their prayers and support for me throughout the time I left the island, up to now.”

Fiu told Samoa News in a recent telephone interview, “I am very excited, as well as Eljae and Phillip. We have been through thick and thin being the only Samoans in this school, and we also click together with Tyler Seau (the son of NFL All Star Veteran Junior Seau) who is also a tremendous player for us… we stand out as Samoan blood brothers here at DSU, and we are very fortunate to have made it together this far.”

He added, “my motivation to strive forward and play hard all started back at Tafuna High School, and I want to thank head coach Jason Magalei for letting me play the game with the knowledge that he  and the Warriors coaching staff has bestowed upon me. I also would like to congratulate Tafuna High School for winning this year’s Championship title, the last time that school won that title was my year, when we played against Phillip Yandall and the Leone Lions.”

For Tafuna Warrior ‘history buffs’ — the three Samoan Statesmen players all played in the 2005 - 2006 ASHSAA Championship game. Hollan and Eljae were star players for the Warriors football squad, while Phillip Yandall came out for the Leone Lions. In fact, Yandall lead the Lions to face Hollan and Eljae in the Championship game.

(Another ASHSAA history fact, unfortunately, is that: the Warrior win in this particular championship game — 2005 -06— ended in the biggest football brawl in ASHSAA history.)

 Fiu noted that “we are having the best season ever here at DSU, and we are looking forward to playing a good game against the Bulldogs next Saturday. I am very happy that we got to make it this far.”

Samoa News asked Hollan, what his future goal is, after leaving DSU, and he responded, “My goal now, is to graduate and to win this upcoming game, it is very big for us, as well as the State of Mississippi. But I am coming from a different angle of my future goals” says Fiu.

He added, “I am looking forward to bringing more American Samoan football players up here to experience this great opportunity, and set an example for them to follow. This is a rare opportunity for any Samoan player who was born and raised on the rock, and if you ever get a chance to a national title game such as this, or join a football squad such as DSU, make the best of it, and don’t take opportunities for granted. These are simple gateways to much more fortunate opportunities like we have now.”

He would like to send his love and appreciation to all his supporters here on island.

“First of all, I would like to send mad love out to the Home of the Warriors” and added, “that’s what’s up”… I am seeing everything fall into place right now, and me and Eljae will be celebrating the Warriors Championship title after we bring home the gold next week Saturday. You made us proud, now wait for us to perform Warrior style on the football field in this National Championship game.”

He concluded, “I would also like to send my love out to my parents, my brothers and sisters, my whole family in American Samoa as well as around the world. My love also goes out to the Tafuna High School class of 2006, I still represent my maroon class blood to the max, so mad love out to all of you, and I would like to wish a Merry Christmas and Happy New Years to Tutuila and Manua.”

PHILLIP YANDALL

Phillip Yandall is a native of American Samoa, who also played all four years on island, before leaving to join Southwestern Community College in San Diego California.

Playing for the Leone Lions, he was stand out player in the ASHSAA football league, well-known for his lineman skills, when he led the Lions to ASHSAA’s Championship match up against the Warriors in  2005 - 2006.

While an underclassmen in high school, Yandall played and attended two years at Tafuna High School, as a freshmen and sophomore with the Warriors. Then before he moved up to the Varsity level, Yandall transferred to Leone High School, and became a Leone High School alumni member when he graduated from the home of the Lions in 2006.

The 6’3”, 295lbs left guard for DSU, is the son of Tolu and Vaiausia of Leone. In 2006, Yandall was selected to the American Samoa All Star team, where he started as an offensive lineman for the All Star team. He was on the same All Star team as Hollan Fiu,

Coming from a family of six siblings, Yandall is the second to the youngest out of the family. “I miss home, and especially my family, but we are out here for a good reason, and that reason keeps me going every single day,” says Yandall.

The DSU’s left guard told Samoa News about his future goal: “Right now, I am focused on two things, and two things only. That is to graduate and win this national championship game next week Saturday. I plan to come back home next summer to visit my family and friends, then will plan to move ahead from there.”

He concluded, “I would like to send my love out to my parents, my family, my friends, my village of Leone, and to head coach Pati Pati and the Leone Lions football team. I would also like to wish a Merry Christmas and Happy New Years to all my relatives in Samoa and around the world, much alofa’s from us here in Mississippi.”

ELJAE FAOAGAALI
Last but not least, is Eljae Faoagali, who has been a tremendous player since his time at Tafuna High School. Faoagali is currently lined up as DSU’s starting defensive end, wearing #92 for the Statesmen.

Faoagali says that he is very blessed to be a part of this team.

“I am very fortunate to be in this kind of situation, to be playing in the national championship game, the biggest Division II match up every year. I am very thankful for my coaches here, and very fortunate to be playing on a team such as the Statesmen squad.”

Back in 2005, Faoagali was brought into play football for the Warriors, as Tafuna High School’s quarterback coach John Tufa (who is now serving in Afghanistan) selected Eljae to be the starting quarterback for the Warriors during his Junior year with the Warriors.

As the starting quarterback, Eljae led the Warriors to an undefeated first round in the ASHSAA football league, then led the Warriors all the way to a Championship title to defeat Phillip Yandall and the Lions in the season of 2005 – 2006.

During his senior year, in 2006 - 2007 Faoagali appeared again as the Warriors starting quarterback, and back up safety.

Unfortunately, during his senior year at THS, Faoagali fell short, as they were defeated by the Leone Lions in the play off match up, where the Lions went on to win championship over the Fagaitua Vikings for the year of 2006 – 2007.

After graduating from THS, Faoagali moved up to attend New Mexico Military Institute, where he played with Hollan Fiu on the same team, but this time, he moved from the quarterback position to being the starting defensive tackle for NMMI.

After spending two years with NMMI, Faoagali went to Mississippi, where he joined his fellow teammate Hollan Fiu again, but this time, with an extra package surprise, when he found out that Phillip Yandall was on the same team too.

“I was surprised and super hyper when I found out that both Phillip and Hollan where on the same squad that I would be playing for here at DSU, and when we all came together, we tore it up, and now we are at our last year of playing football for the Statesmen, and we are making history again,” says Faoagali.

The 6’3”, 250lbs defensive end out of DSU is the son of Lautofa and Siliafai Faoagali from the village of Vaitogi, where the legend of the Turtle and Shark resides. Being a year younger than Phillip and Hollan, Eljae has stood his ground to make it all the way to the finals, and graduate together with his fellow teammates, as this year, is also his last year at DSU.

Majoring in Criminal Justice, Faoagali told Samoa News that he is looking forward to using his major for his future goal. “I am thinking of looking for a job that suits my learning profession, and I am looking forward to the future and what it has at hand for me. Right now, my vision of the future is blurry as it is, because I am more focusing on school and football at the moment. I want to graduate and make sure that I worked hard to bring this title to the home of the Statesmen before graduating from DSU.”

Faoagali comes from a family of three siblings, two sisters and himself, and he claims to be the middle child of the family, “I have two sisters, and I am the only male in the sibling line of our family. I love my sisters, and I thank them also for their support and prayers for me.”

He added, “I would first like to thank God for the wonderful blessings that he has bestowed upon me and my family. I would also like to thank my church in Vaitogi, my EFKAS church for all their prayers and support for me and my family, I would also like to thank my parents, for being the greatest mentors in the world, and I love them dearly.”

Faoagali concluded, “I would also like to thank my friends and families in Tutuila, Manu’a, and around the world, last but not least, I would like to wish a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Years to all the families in Samoa, and to the Sons of Samoa who are fighting the war in Iraq, may you all stay blessed, and may the good Lord keep you in his hands.”

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