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Friday, November 30, 2012

For Serra lineman Inoke Raikadroka, `try' is the operative word


From the scrum to the gridiron, Inoke Raikadroka has been a behemoth.
Raikadroka's rugby background has given him the foundation and toughness to excel as an lineman for Serra's football team.
"Rugby really prepared me for football," Raikadroka said. "There is a competitive edge in both. In the second half of a rugby match or the fourth quarter of a football game, you have to keep pushing. That competitive drive takes over."
The 6-foot, 255-pound Raikadroka earned the Mission League's Lineman of the Year honor this season as he helped power Serra to its third CIF final in four seasons.
If No. 2 seed Chaminade (12-1) is going to beat fourth-seeded Serra (11-2) for a second time this season in today's 8 p.m. CIF Southern Section Western Division final at Serra, it must go through Raikadroka on both sides of the ball.
"If we had to pick an MVP right now, Inoke Raikadroka has been our guy," Serra coach Scott Altenberg said. "He's been as dominant at noseguard as (former Serra standout) David Moala for us.
"I know I have an OK player when opposing coaches ask me about my `D-Tackle,' but when they ask about `No. 50,' that's when I know they are on a different level."
Raikadroka grew up with rugby.
His father, Inoke Sr., played the sport in his native Fiji. Raikadroka himself has played for the Carson-based South Bay Spartans and even took a trip to Argentina, Uruguay and Chile this summer competing for the USA High School All-American team.
Raikadroka plays the No. 8 position in rugby, similar to a fullback/linebacker in football.
Former Serra standout Sione Tuihalamaka - Raikadroka's cousin - introduced Raikadroka to football in middle school and unleashed a beast.
"Football is my passion," Raikadroka said.
If he had his druthers, Raikadroka would focus solely on defense. His play at nose guard disrupts many offenses, much like Moala did in helping lead Serra to CIF state bowl berths in 2009 and 2010.
But Raikadroka gladly helps on the offensive line, saying it is the "barrier" for the skills guys.
It is more like the Great Barrier Reef as it opens up holes for skill players like Malik Roberson and Marques Rodgers and buys time for quarterback Jalen Greene.
"On offense, you have to stay disciplined and organized, but you have to keep a quick, fast tempo," Raikadroka said. "On defense, it's like being ready to shoot out of a cannon. You have to be ready to explode. Defense is more wild and crazy."
Fresno State and UC Davis have been showing interest, and Raikadroka met with Sacramento State officials on Wednesday at Serra. He said his dream school is Oregon State, and Altenberg said he expects the recruiting to pick up for Raikadroka.
"He's got such a great motor, it's out of this world," Altenberg said. "If he was 6-foot-2, he would be a five-star, blue-chip recruit. But when recruiters come and see him ... the film doesn't lie."
Raikadroka is a third-year varsity player who got some valuable reps as a sophomore.
Even after missing five games with a left knee injury as a junior, Raikadroka has been on a different level throughout his senior year.
Raikadroka had nine tackles as the noseguard in the season opener against Notre Dame/Sherman Oaks.
Raikadroka impressed with a 54-yard interception return for a touchdown against St.Francis and had a strong first-round performance against Oxnard.
But Altenberg said Notre Dame was the eye-opening game.
"That was his coming-out party. He just killed it," Altenberg said. "And that was a good Notre Dame team, and he crushed it. I'm not sure you can have a better first game.
"The key has been keeping him healthy. I think being hurt as a junior made him so much hungrier this season."
Then there is the food.
Raikadroka's typical meal consists of four pieces of chicken and a full plate of rice. But the difference is that he mixes in a lot of fruits and vegetables.
"I eat anything and everything," Raikadroka said.
It's double trouble at the Raikadroka dinner table. He has a twin brother, Manase, who is the center for the Serra football team.
They line up next to each other on the field. And once again, that competitive nature comes out.
"Like any twins, we do fight and compete," Raikadroka said. "We compete on the field, in class and at home."
Raikadroka knows Serra is known more for its skill players, but said he takes pride in carrying the torch for linemen like Tuihalamaka and Moala, guys he has admired.
"He was always amazing, but in the shadows," Altenberg said. "Now he's at another level completely."
tony.ciniglio@dailybreeze.com
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