Richard Auelua faced some formidable challenges when he showed up for Terra Nova’s summer football workouts.
The 6-foot-1 220-pound senior had to move into an offensive line position he’d never played before.
And he had to adjust quick.
A team playing for its fourth consecutive Peninsula Athletic League Bay championship and probably the Peninsula’s most demanding coaching staff wasn’t going to wait around for Auelua to acclimate to his new role on his own timetable.
A strong work ethic, a willingness to learn, seemingly boundless energy and an infectious smile have helped Auelua excel in his new role.
“I was really nervous,” Auelua said. “I thought I was going to get blown off the ball every play, but since then I’ve been playing pretty well.
“I’ve been blowing other people off the ball.
Auelua is a two-way starter, playing offensive guard and middle linebacker.
“He's never down in the dumps,” Terra Nova coach Bill Gray said. “He’s got a great attitude, he works hard and he brings a smile to practice every day.”
Auelua’s development has been a key factor in Terra Nova’s progression.
A Tigers team that suffered heavy graduation losses has rebounded from a 0-2 start to win four of its last five games. Terra Nova (4-3, 2-0 PAL Bay) trounced Burlingame 49-0 on Friday.
Auelua’s leadership has been just as pivotal to the Tigers’ success as his ability, coaches say.
“He’s not a team captain but he acts like one,” Gray said.
Among Auelua’s teammates is his younger brother Sam Auelua, a junior two-say lineman.
Coaches say Richard Auelua’s aptitude is among his most impressive attributes.
“The biggest compliment that you can say about a Richard is coaches saying 'Richard gets it,' ” Gray said.
He seems to “get” a lot of things.
“He understands the concept of hard work,” Gray said. “He always respects his opponents, he respects his teammates and they have great respect for him.”
Auelua’s role on the team can’t be understated.
“His season so far has gone very well and each week he is getting better,” Gray said. “He is right now probably the standard bearer for our team.”
Auelua believes his experience taking on new roles in football is something he can bring to other challenges life throws at him.
“I learned how to keep working hard, never stop working hard and never give up,” Auelua said.
Terra Nova’s played its best game against Burlingame by just about every measure.
Running back Tanner Piccolotti rushed for 230 yards and three touchdowns (both career highs) on 13 carries and quarterback K’Ren Spain was 17-for-20 passing for 225 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
The Tigers rolled up 574 yards of total offense while playing a just about perfect game defensively to go along with solid special teams play.
“It was probably our best effort from top to bottom,” Gray said.
Gray acknowledged that Burlingame had several key players out with illnesses and injury though.
“I don't think we saw the best Burlingame team because of those uncontrollable factors, but we played very well nevertheless,” Gray said.
Back to the future?
Terra Nova will spend the week preparing for an Aragon opponent that poses some unique challenges.
Aragon boasts some impressive team speed and above average size, and is especially well coached under longtime coach Steve Sell.
The Dons remind Gray of an Aragon program that was a perennially dominant Peninsula power in the late 1990s into the early 2000s.
“Aragon this year reminds me of Aragon of old,” Gray said. “Big, fast, very well coached and quite a challenge.
“They were essentially unbeatable.”
Alma Heights Christian girls’ volleyball sensation Jade Tu had a season-high 18 kills to lead the Eagles to their 11th consecutive victory, 3-1 (23-25, 25-19, 25-15, 25-23) over Immaculate Conception in a Private School League North match on Friday.
The junior outside hitter is averaging 2.8 kills per set and leads the team in several statistical categories including kills (158), service aces (49) and kill percentage (41.3). She is second on the team with 65 digs.
Senior setter Keola Lamadora had a season-high 35 assists in the Immaculate Conception match. She leads the team in that department with 303.
The Eagles (15-4, 8-0 PSL North) had won 22 straight games and 28 of their least 29 before losing the first game of the Immaculate Conception match.