Kahuku Linebacker Looks To BYU Play After Prep Finale

Statistically speaking, even the harshest critic would be hard-pressed to find room for improvement within the Kahuku defense.

Linebacker Johnny “Ku J” Tapusoa is still searching for that perfect game, however. And the post-season is a good time, he figures, for him and his teammates to play the perfect game.

“Honestly, there’s always room for improvement – especially with the defense,” said Tapusoa. “We’ve been doing really good, but I feel like there’s more work to do. I think we can hold teams to less yards. We still have a lot to work on. We can’t peak now or we’re going to lose.”

Tapusoa’s future has more football in it – regardless of how the rest of 2012 plays out. He recently verbally committed to a football scholarship from BYU for next fall, freeing him up to think only of finishing his career at Kahuku in style.

“I’m relieved (to have chosen a school), and it takes pressure off of my parents,” he laughed, noting the high costs of a college education. Long before he became one of the top college prospects in the state, however, Tapusoa’s football dreams were all Red Raider-related.

“That’s everybody’s dream living here – you always want to play for the Red Raiders,” he said. “I have a legacy to live up to here, and it motivates me to play hard, but those are big shoes to fill if you want to play for Kahuku.”

Tapusoa didn’t lack for good examples in the community when he was growing into the player he has become. Within his own household, older brother Tima, who starred on Kahuku’s 2008 and 2009 teams, and who is currently at Mesa Community College, was a good role model. (Ku J also proudly noted the arrival of a new brother to the family last week – “Baby Andy.”)

“Even though he wasn’t a linebacker, I always looked up to him,” he said of Tima. “I also followed Shiloah Te’o (Kahuku/OSU) and Manti Te’o (Punahou/Notre Dame), who’s from the community, and Al Afalava (Kahuku/OSU/Chicago Bears/Tennessee Titans).”

Among players in the pro ranks, Tapusoa likes veteran Ray Lewis. “The Baltimore Ravens, that’s my favorite team.”

Tapusoa’s hard-hitting style is only one of his strengths. He’s a student of the game, whose smarts on the field rubs off on those around him. Kahuku’s defense returned eight starters from last year’s state champion team, giving them one of their most experienced units in recent years, and the results have reflected their veteran leadership. The Red Raiders are giving up 7.7 points per game and only 33 rushing yards per outing. Five of Kahuku’s opponents have been held to one score or less. Last year, a broken collarbone sidelined him for a handful of games, but Tapusoa healed quickly to return in time for team’s OIA semifinal win as well as the last three games. His veteran leadership has been key this year.

“Knowing the schemes of our defense helps us the most. At linebacker, you get to hit a lot. I was 8 when I first started playing, and I loved it – just running around with my friends and getting a feel for it (football).

“When we knocked each other down, we’d brag about it in school,” he added with a laugh.