Friday, December 21, 2012
Shaunne Katoa, 2012 All County Football Team MVP
Monterey High coach Tom Newton said the Toreadores football team was only going to go as far as senior inside linebacker Shaunne Katoa took them this season.
Katoa, a three-year starter, led Monterey to the top seed in the Central Coast Section's Division III playoffs. The Toreadores (9-3) fell just short of playing for a title, losing by three points to Aptos in the semifinals.
"He's probably the best football player I've ever been able to coach in terms of just pure ability," Newton said.
Katoa was the catalyst for a Monterey defense that allowed only 12.17 points per game, second to Seaside (11.42) for the top mark in Monterey County. The Toreadores had the best point differential in the area in 2012, beating their opponent by an average of 24.67 points a game.
The senior led Monterey in tackles, had two interceptions and returned one of them for a touchdown, forced three fumbles and had 20 tackles for a loss, including six sacks.
Katoa played through injuries in multiple games en route to earning The Herald's All-County Football Team-Defense Most Valuable Player honor. Monterey played with a 26-man roster, which meant the team lacked the depth that most of their opponents carried.
"Having that amount of players makes it really critical when one of the starters gets hurt. It's hard when you get hurt and you look out there and your brothers are going to war," Katoa said. "I just had to get back out there and help."
It was Katoa's brother, Jordan, who would shift over when the senior linebacker had to leave the field.
"It was a great feeling" playing with my younger brother, Katoa said. "It kind of reminded me of when we played for the Seaside Raiders (youth football team) back in 2006 and 2007. ... He always fed off of me and we watched film before games and talked to my dad. My dad always had us together game planning."
While Katoa said football is a big part of his life, he said his family is just as important.
"I'm actually trying to get a part-time job right now to help my parents pay the bills," he said.
Katoa said both his immediate and extended family provided inspiration for him this season.
After graduating, he plans on moving on to college to play football and get a degree.
"I actually just took my SAT for the first time and I'm waiting for my grades to come in," he said.
Katoa said he has been looking at junior colleges. If he can't get into a university he would like to start at a community college and then transfer. He hasn't made any decisions, but Katoa expressed interest in going to City College of San Francisco.
"They really try to get student-athletes out there to help them get to where they want to go," he said, adding that he would like to "get away from this place" for a little while.
Newton thinks Katoa can make it to a Division I football team if he puts all of his energy into it.
"He's got to focus on his grades and clear up the distractions," he said. "He's got to choose his life and choose what's important and I think he's headed in the right direction. He's been good at school and he's really turning it around and we're pretty proud of him."
Newton has no doubt that Katoa's football skills are good enough to play at a higher level.
"When he's on and his head's focused, he's as good as they come," he said. "Right now he's behind on credits and we're just trying to make sure he graduates high school. Down the road, he's still going to play college football. He's going to play at a JC somewhere and hopefully in that kind of environment he thrives, and I think he has a very good chance to thrive in a college environment."
Newton said he expects Jordan Katoa to try to fill the hole his brother leaves in the middle of the Monterey defense next season.
"We're going to have to replace two three-year starters in Blake Flores and Shaunne and that's a big deal; it's going to be tough," Newton said. "You're not going to have a physical presence like Shaunne, there's no way. He was pretty imposing. So it's going to mean a lot to find someone to fill those shoes and it's going to be a lot of pressure on whoever that is."