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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, December 21, 2006

Elite JC defensive end latest Warrior

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Jerry Glanville

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SHERATON HAWAI'I BOWL

Who: Arizona State (7-5) vs. Hawai'i (10-3)

When: 3:05 p.m. Sunday (parking lot opens at 10 a.m.; turnstiles at noon)

Where: Aloha Stadium

TV: ESPN

Radio: 1420 AM (O'ahu), KAOI (Maui/Kona), KPUA (Hilo) and KQNG (Kaua'i)

Audio webcast: http://espn1420am.com

Tickets: $45, $40, $35, $30, $15, $10 (child, north end zone)

Available at University of Hawai'i ticket office, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; Aloha Stadium, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; online, www.HawaiiAthletics.com, www.etickethawaii.com; by phone: 548-BOWL, Neighbor Islands and Mainland (toll free): (800) 291-3999

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An All-America junior college defensive end has accepted a football scholarship offer from the University of Hawai'i.

After consulting with his family last night, Chris Leatigaga of Foothill College in Los Altos, Calif., said he agreed to join the Warriors for the 2007 season.

Leatigaga will earn an associate degree in March Foothill is on a quarters schedule and have three years to play two seasons for the Warriors.

"I can't wait to get out there," Leatigaga said. "I've got family out there. I'm Polynesian, and that's a big Polynesian school. I'm going to feel right at home. I'm going to enjoy living there for the next two or three years. It's a comfortable place for me."

Leatigaga, who is 6 feet 5 and 260 pounds, was named to the All-California first team.

There are 72 community college football teams in California, and being named to the All-California team earns the distinction as an All-America player.

Leatigaga was a multi-sport athlete at Independence High School in San Jose, Calif..

After attracting limited interest from Division I-A programs, he opted to attend Foothills, a football powerhouse.

This year, Foothill capped a 10-1 season with a victory in the 2006 Silicon Valley Bowl. Foothill was declared the Northern California champion.

Leatigaga said he went on the Warriors' radar when UH defensive line coach Jeff Reinebold was recruiting another Bay Area player.

"Reinebold was watching the other guy's tapes when he noticed me," Leatigaga said. "Reinebold called my coach and said I caught his eye."

Leatigaga said Reinebold visited his home two weeks ago. "We talked, and he said he was going to make me an offer," Leatigaga said. "I like (Reinebold). He's a good guy."

Leatigaga said he has several relatives in Hawai'i, including his sister and newborn niece.

"I really want to be close to them," he said.

He also will be reunited with several members of the First Congressional Christian Church.

He said his introduction to sports was through church leagues.

Leatigaga will help boost a defense that is losing its starting defensive ends. Melila Purcell III and Ikaika Alama-Francis complete their UH eligibility following Sunday's Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl.

Earlier, the Warriors received verbal commitments from running back Leon Jackson, who played as a freshman at Nebraska in 2005; running back/slotback Gabe Tuata of Kealakehe; defensive lineman Vaughn Meatoga of Kamehameha Schools; safety Erik Robinson of Navarro Junior College in Texas; and linebacker Kevin Konrath of Brothers Rice High in Chicago.

Robinson is expected to enroll at UH in January.

DEFENSE RUNNING WELL

In reviewing football videotapes of Hawai'It's defenders, the Arizona State players cut to the chase.

"They're aggressive guys trying to go for the kill shot all of the time," quarterback Rudy Carpenter said of the Sun Devils' opponent in Sunday's Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl. "They can be pretty physical. We've got to be ready for that."

In the second season under defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville, the Warriors have morphed into aggressive defenders who relinquish few fun runs.

In 2004, the Warriors finished last among 117 Division I-A teams in run defense, allowing 252.6 yards per game, along with 42 rushing touchdowns. Opponents averaged 5.39 yards per carry.

Last year, Glanville's first at UH following a 12-year hiatus from coaching, the Warriors allowed 187.6 rushing yards per game.

This season, the Warriors are ranked 53rd nationally (out of 119 teams), allowing 131.2 rushing yards per game an average of 121.4 fewer than in 2004. What's more, opponents are limited to 3.8 yards per carry and have scored 12 rushing touchdowns.

It is a remarkable turnaround given that the Warriors' four-wide passing offense, which leads the country in scoring, does not usually have prolonged possessions.

"Because we score so fast, (the defense) is on the field a lot," left outside linebacker Tyson Kafentzis said. "If we had a running offense, I'd really like to see how our defense would be ranked."

In a chicken-egg debate, it could be argued UH's success is the result of a sure-tackling secondary that allows the defensive front to cram the tackle box or an aggressive defensive line that gives linebackers and safeties unobstructed access to ball-carriers.

"We're playing as a defensive unit, and we're all doing our assignments," free safety Leonard Peters said. "The d-line is doing well in plugging their gaps and opening the way for the linebackers to come in clean without the offensive linemen trying to chip them off."

Glanville said the three down linemen nose tackle Michael Lafaele and ends Melila Purcell III and Ikaika Alama-Francis not only occupy blockers, but can break free to make tackles. Lafaele often is assigned to the running back sneaking into the flats.

"The guys up front have been the Bermuda Triangle for opposing offenses this year," defensive line coach Jeff Reinebold said. "Running backs go in there but they don't come out."

Head coach June Jones said he was not surprised by the Warriors' improved run defense.

"Wherever Jerry's been, we've stopped the run," Jones said. "He gets the kids to take pride in stopping the run."

Glanville said the plan is simple: every player is taught that tackling the ball-carrier is a group activity.

"It's nothing I do," Glanville said. "It's all the players. They take what we emphasize. We emphasize gang-tackling. It's the tenacity of the gang-tackling that makes the difference."

This season, 11 opposing running backs were too bruised to finish the game.

"Coach Glanville puts us in a great position to make plays," inside linebacker Adam Leonard said. "With our safeties coming up, and our corners doing their thing, it's tough for one person to go against 11."

52 AND COUNTING

For starters, center Samson Satele is a rarity.

Satele has never missed a start in a UH career that concludes Sunday. He is the NCAA's active leader with 52 consecutive starts.

"I think it's a hell of a feat," offensive line coach Dennis McKnight said. "To start every single game of your college career, not a lot of guys have done that in the history of college football."

Since his first start against Appalachian State on Aug. 30, 2003, Satele has played three positions (left tackle, left guard, center) and endured numerous injuries. During the 2003 season, he suffered a subluxation of his left shoulder. He did not undergo surgery until after his sophomore season.

"I was injured, but nothing was going to keep me from playing," Satele said.

This season he has played despite a strained right Achilles tendon and a bruised right collarbone.

"That's why he'll be a high draft choice and play for a long time in the NFL," McKnight said. "He's a tough guy. He's a smart guy. And he's durable. In the NFL, you not only have to be big, strong and fast, you've got to be tough. You've got to be durable. You can't play with an injury, but you've got to play with pain, and Sam does and can."

Satele is rated as the No. 1 center by draftdaddy.com.

QUITE A WEB SIGHT

For the first time in four years, left tackle Tala Esera cut his hair.

Sort of.

Esera, who has worn his hair in dreadlocks this season, cut the front area. Backup quarterback Inoke Funaki braided the shortened hair into web-like designs while leaving the back in dreadlocks.

"I wanted to change it up," Esera said.

He said he was inspired after taking his daughters to the movie, "Charlotte's Web."

"I just got the idea from that," Esera said. "It's a web."

The design worked out better than when he applied green dye to the ends of dreadlocks.

"The green dye fizzled out, and it turned yellow," Esera said. "It turned tennis-ball yellow."

SURF ON HIS TURF

ASU offensive lineman Brandon Rodd, an 'Aiea High School graduate, has served this week as a tour guide.

Rodd took a group of 15 teammates to Queen's to surf and then to Makapu'u to bodyboard.

"My brother (H-back Brent Miller) and I were joking about it, saying, 'Here come the sharks,' " tight end Zach Miller said. "It was a lot of fun."

The Sun Devils were taught several phrases. Safety Josh Barrett, who learned to flash the shaka sign, has tried to use "da kine" in conversations.

Rodd said some of his Caucasian teammates refer to themselves as "haole boys."

"They're kind of proud of it," Rodd said. "It's kind of weird."

The Sun Devils have practiced until mid-day the past two days. The biggest obstacle has been negotiating through swap-meet traffic in the Aloha Stadium parking lot.

But for Rodd, "being back and practicing in this stadium is great. I have energy for some reason. I feel like I'm home. I feel real comfortable. Even seeing a couple of UH players around (Waikiki) last night made me feel like home."

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SHERATON HAWAI'I BOWL

WHAT: University of Hawai'i (10-3) vs. Arizona State (7-5)

WHEN: 3:05 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 24

WHERE: Aloha Stadium

TV: Live nationwide on ESPN with Mark Jones (play-by-play), David Norrie (analyst) and Heather Cox (sideline).

AUDIO WEBCAST: espn1420am.com

RADIO: Live on ESPN 1420, with Bobby Curran (play-by-play), Robert Kekaula (color) and John Veneri (sideline). Don Robbs hosts "Warrior Warm-up" beginning at 2 p.m. and also the halftime show. Neighbor Island simulcasts can be heard live on KAOI on Maui/Kona, KPUA in Hilo and KQNG on Kaua'i.

TICKET PRICES: $10 to $45.

TICKET SALES: On sale online at sheratonhawaiibowl.com, or by calling 548-BOWL (2695) between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, or at Stan Sheriff Center, Aloha Stadium, UH Campus Center, RainBowtique and Windward Community College's OCET Office during normal business hours. Convenience fees may apply.

GATES OPEN: Parking lot gates at Aloha Stadium will open at 10 a.m. Stadium gates open at 11 a.m.

ALOHA STADIUM PARKING: $5

ALTERNATIVE PARKING (no tailgating):

• Leeward Community College (free parking and $2 per person charge for shuttle service); opens 11 a.m.

(A giveaway of stadium concession coupons for two free 32-ounce soft drinks ($7 value) to the first 500 drivers who use this parking site.)

• Kamehameha Drive-In ($5 with free shuttle service); opens 11 a.m.

(A giveaway of stadium concession coupons for two free 32-ounce soft drinks ($7 value) for the first 500 drivers who use this parking site.)

• Radford High School ($3 with no shuttle service); opens 11 a.m.

SECURITY: Only fanny packs, purses, backpacks and handbags will be allowed into stadium (subject to check).

TRAFFIC ADVISORY: Sports Radio ESPN 1420 will provide traffic advisories and updates.

BUS SHUTTLES:

Roberts Hawaii is offering round trip "air conditioned" shuttle bus services to Aloha Stadium for $6 from three O'ahu areas.

Bus No. 1 will pick up at the Mililani Mauka Park n' Ride at 1 p.m. and go directly to the stadium.

Bus No. 2 will pick up at the Hawai'i Kai Park n' Ride at 12:15 p.m., at Bank of Hawai'i at Kahala Mall at 12:45 and proceed to the stadium.

Bus No. 3 will pick up at the Kailua District Park, Kainalu Avenue at 12:15 p.m., at Windward Mall Shopping Center on Alaloa Street facing Sears at 12:45 and proceed to the stadium.

The shuttle will depart from Aloha Stadium half hour after the game ends.

Reservations are required and service is first come, first serve. Call Roberts School Bus at 832-4886 for reservations and additional information.

CITY BUS SERVICE

The FootballExpress offers 17 pickup locations throughout O'ahu.

The first trip from each location leaves approximately three hours before kickoff and the last trip leaves approximately 90 minutes before the game. Return trips leave as soon as the bus is full, with the final trip leaving 30 minutes after the game ends.

Honolulu pickup locations are at:

• Ala Moana (Kona Street), noon, 12:30 p.m., 1 p.m., 1:30 p.m.

• Downtown (Alapai Transit Center), 12:10 p.m., 12:40, 1:10, 1:40.

• Palolo (Waialae, Palolo, fronting McDonald), 12:02 p.m., 12:32 p.m., 1:02 p.m.

• University of Hawai'i (Sinclair Circle), 12:10 p.m., 12:50, 1:10, 1:30.

• Kahala Mall (Waialae, Kilauea across mall), noon, 12:40, 1:10, 1:40.

• Kaimuki (Koko Head, Waialae, fronting Liliuokalani Elementary), noon, 1 p.m., 1:30 p.m.

• Waikiki (Monsarrat at Kapiolani Boulevard), 11:30 a.m., 11:45 a.m., noon, 12:15, 12:30, 12:50, 1, 1:10, 1:30.

• Hawai'i Kai (Keahole St., Hawai'i Kai Park & Ride), 12:15 p.m., 12:30, 12:45, 1, 1:15, 1:30.

Leeward pickups are at:

• 'Ewa Beach (Fort Weaver, Kaimalie before 'Ewa Beach Shopping Center), noon, 1:20.

• Kapolei (Kamokila Boulevard at Kahuhihewa State Building), noon, 1:40.

• Mililani Mauka (Ukuwai Strett at Mililani Park & Ride), noon, 1 p.m., 1:40.

• Village Park (Kupuohi Street, Royal Kunia Park & Ride), 12:20 p.m. and 1:40.

Windward pickups are at:

• Kalaniana'ole/Kailua (acros Castle Medical Center), noon, 1:20.

• Kailua: Keolu/Hele (across Enchanted Lake Shopping Center), 12:05 p.m., 1:25.

• Kailua / Hahani (Kailua Shopping Center), 12:10 p.m., 1:30.

• Kaneohe Bay / Mokapu (fronting Aikahi Shopping Center), noon, 1:20.

• Kaneohe Bay / Makalani (across Windward City Shopping Center), 12:10 p.m., 1:30.

Buses will leave the stadium when the bus is full and the last return trip will leave a half-hour after the game ends.

Rates are $3 one way and $6 roundtrip. Passes and transfers are not accepted.

For information, go to: http://www.thebus.org

ALOHA STADIUM PARKING PLAN:

The stadium authority has released a set of new plans to help prevent gridlock at this weekend's Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl.

The authority has created the following procedures for the Christmas Eve game:

-- Cancellation of the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet on Sunday only.

-- Opening parking gates at 10 a.m., five hours before the 3 p.m. kick-off.

-- Halawa gate, Gate 3, will be used as the entry for upper and lower Halawa parking lot only.

-- Lower Salt Lake gate, Gate 4, will be used for entry for upper and lower Halawa parking lot.

-- Kamehameha Lot gate, Gate 5, will be used for entry for Kamehameha Lot only.

Reach Stephen Tsai at stsai@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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