A Strong Power Running Game Delivers Nonconference Road Win For Monterey Trail Football •
George Pahulu first approached SportStars about covering Tongan and Samoan athletes for the magazine back in 2017. He’s covered several games for us since then under the series name, “Pahulu’s Point Of View.” With football finally back for a quick spring season, he’s returned to sending us occasional breakdowns. His first report from this season was on Menlo-Atherton’s defeat of Half Moon Bay. This is his report on Monterey Trail football and its win over Clayton Valley.
DATE: Saturday, March 26, 2021
MATCHP: Monterey Trail HS @ Clayton Valley Charter HS
GAME INFO: Defending State 2-AA Champs Clayton Valley Ugly Eagles were attempting to tune-up for a three-week run through the East Bay Athletic League. Monterey Trail, an up and coming team out of Elk Grove, who upset Div 1 Folsom in 2019 playoffs to reach to the Sac-Joaquin Section Div. I Championship game came to Concord for a challenge.
PLAYERS I CAME TO SEE: I am here to watch Tongan student-athletes from Monterey Trail: senior lineman Kelepi Talakai, junior linebacker Tanaki Tonga and senior tight end Fatafehi Puloka. On the other side of the ball, I came to watch junior Samoan offensive lineman Jared Palega — a transfer from San Leandro High. Senior USC-commit and receiver/defensive back standout, Prophet Brown, opted out the spring season. He was being heavily recruited by University of Oklahoma and Oregon before he finalized his decision with USC.
• Monterey Trail strikes first as Chris Lands scores on a 26-yard run with 8:01 remaining in the first quarter.
• Never seen this in high school football: Playing nose tackle in a 3-4 defense, Kelepi Talakai lines up 5 yards off the ball. Usually nose tackles are lined up with their helmet as close to the football.
• MT strikes again with a 1-yard TD run by Otha Williams that made it 14-0 with 1:57 remaining in the first quarter.
• Clayton Valley senior QB Jake Kern threw an interception to Mustangs linebacker Tanaki Tonga as he read Kerns eyes throughout that play.
• Ugly Eagles’ defense gave up a pass interference in the end zone to give Monterey Trail the ball at the 9-yard line with 15 seconds before halftime as the Mustangs kicked a 19-yard field goal to be up 17-0 at halftime.
• In the third quarter, Clayton Valley finally got on the board with a 27-yard TD run by senior Omari Taylor that made it 17-7.
• Both Monterey Trail running backs had over 100 yards: Williams had 26 carries for 113 yards and Lands finished with 15 carries for 106 yards
• Monterey Trail’s defense was led by Tonga who finished with 14 tackles and an interception.
Clayton Valley’s Jared Palega is the grand nephew of Sululagi Palega, who is known as the Samoan Godfather of SF. He was my mentor before he passed away two years ago. Talakai’s father, Mosa, was an All-American center at City College of San Francisco before completing his career at UC Davis.
This was a great nonconference football matchup between two powerhouses from SJS and NCS. Both run a similar heavy run-oriented offense. Surprised to not see many Tongan student-athletes playing for Clayton Valley Football this season, as there is a huge Tongan community in the Concord area. Monterey Trail Tongan assistant coach Toke Kefu played for current Mustang head coach TJ Ewing. Despite a short spring football season, look out for these two teams in the fall .
Till’ next time. Ofa Atu.