Alan Tanielu is hard to miss on the soccer field.
With her long dark hair falling from the back of her helmet, often obscuring the uniform number on her back, the older Aragon looks like a rock star on the grill.
And, according to 21st-year Dons head coach Steve Sell, Tanielu is quite the rock star he seems to be.
“It terrifies me to think where we would be without him,” Sell said.
With Tanielu, the Donations seem rarefied this year. Backed by a contingent of high school students who two years ago in their first and second years were content with an overall record of 1-9, Aragon had his best run in the playoffs this year since Sell took resumed the program in 2001. On Saturday, Aragon prevailed in the Central Coastal Section V Division V Championship Match 38-14 against St. Francis-Watsonville, scoring the school’s first CCS football title since 1994.
Tanielu earned the Daily Journal Athlete of the Week award, not just for his 136 versatile yards and two touchdowns. With the Dons back against the wall for much of the first half, Tanielu helped turn the game around with a 37-yard touchdown to give the Dons a 17-14 lead early in the third quarter.
“It was a game-changer for us because it opened our eyes to the fact that the game was still alive for us,” said Tanielu.
Not that Tanielu can be defined as a wide receiver. It really cannot be defined by a single position. He is the classic Swiss Army knife type, playing multiple positions in all three phases of the game.
However, when people ask him what role he plays, Tanielu likes to keep it simple.
“I just tell them the receiver and DB,” Tanielu said.
It really isn’t that simple, however.
“No it’s not,” Tanielu said. “Then after seeing me play, they tell me I’m all over the pitch. “
One of his best moments at the Swiss Army Knife was receiving Saturday’s touchdown, delivered not by Aragon quarterback Dylan Daniel, but on an optional pass from junior receiver Lloyd Walter. It’s a game Sell has had up his sleeve all season, although Aragon started playing it earlier in the year, Tanielu was the passer and Walter the receiver.
The role reversal proved to be the catalyst to CCS ‘glory.
“It was huge because I thought we could move the ball but we didn’t hit it,” Sell said. “Our records kept stalling before we could score. So that was huge.
“Anytime you can score on the opening practice in the second half it’s encouraging,” Sell said. “And that was a great game.… In high school, anytime you can score on big games, that helps.
The trick play only adds to Tanielu’s highlights this season. He scored offensive touchdowns via catch and run – including a 5-yard rushing score on Saturday – while in defense had a scoop and a score, and on special teams returned a kickoff for a touchdown, and another out of his own blocked punt.
Perhaps the most consistent play in Tanielu’s repertoire, however, comes with his knack for recovering in-game kicks. As an Aragon kicker, he does all the work himself, kicking the ball out. 10 meters from the ground and recovering it himself. He has performed it to perfection four times this season.
Don’t tell Tanielu that he does all the work himself, otherwise he will correct you quickly. He’s certainly had a lot of support in attack, from the multi-faceted backfield of Mone Hokafonu, Jared Walsh and the season-starting college call, second Ivan Nisa.
But who knew that this group of characters had a CCS Championship in them?
“All we really thought about was regrouping and slowly but surely rebuilding,” Tanielu said. “And then this whole offseason, all we were talking about was how we got to have a championship mindset.… That’s all we talked about: championship, championship, championship.
Still, success on the grill was lifelong for Tanielu, who arrived at Aragon in his freshman year with no football experience. He grew up in San Mateo playing soccer, but decided to give soccer a try partly because he was curious about the sport and partly because he didn’t have many friends – most of his friends. friends from Abbott Middle School going to Hillsdale.
“I always thought I was too small,” Tanielu said. “I was very thin. And when I got into high school I just gave it a try and ended up being pretty decent. And then I liked his work ethic, and I started to fall in love with him.
It also took a while for Tanielu to fall in love with her long hair. He’s had flowing locks since he was little, a cultural connection, as he calls it, with his Samoan heritage.
Tanielu said that there have been several times in his life he asked his mother to let him cut it, but she would never allow him to.
“I’m pretty glad she denied it because that makes me who I am,” Tanielu said, “so I started kissing her.”
Now another defining characteristic that makes Tanielu what he is, along with all of his compatriots Aragon Dons 2021, is that he is a CCS champion.