The Punahou gunslinger

There is a lot of young up-and-coming talent on the islands of Hawaii, especially from the North Shore region, where many will be making a big impact on the prep football scene in a few years. One is an up-and-coming LDS quarterback at Punahou High School who has a few goals he wants to accomplish in the near future.

Coming in at 6 feet 2 inches and 190 pounds, Ephraim Tuliloa will be heading into his sophomore year next season.

"I started on the J.V. team this past year, and as the quarterback I have to be prepared and know the playbook inside out," Tuliloa said. "To play quarterback, you have to be able to really throw the ball and that's what I like to do. I feel I have a pretty strong arm to throw the deep passes as well as connect on the short routes when needed. "

Punahou High School is coming off of a successful season.

"We did pretty good," Tuliloa said. "Our varsity team went to the state title game but lost to Kahuku High School. If we would have beaten them we would have won the state title. It was a good game."

Punahou lost to the Red Raiders 42-20. While Tuliloa wasn't the varsity starting quarterback in the state championship game, he nevertheless did get some practice time with the varsity squad.

"I was on the J.V. team but then I got moved up to the varsity team," said Tuliloa. "There is a policy in our league that won't let freshmen play on the varsity team, but I was moved up to practice on the varsity team. That way I can prepare for next year. "

So what type of a quarterback is Tuliloa?

"I'm more of dual-threat type quarterback," Tuliloa said. "I can pass the ball downfield but I can also run downfield when I need to. I have a pretty strong arm so I can stay in the pocket and pass the ball to receivers downfield, but when I need to I can take off and run it downfield."

Tuliloa understands he's going to have to work hard to beat out the team's other quarterbacks waiting in the wings.

"There will be a senior quarterback on our team that will probably get the starting job, but I have to prepare myself to be ready to come in and lead the team if that time comes," said a confident but humble Tuliloa. "I have to be ready for when my number is called. My goal right now is to work hard and be prepared to be the number two quarterback. That's my goal. If I can win the starting job, then that's even better, but it will be a lot of hard work and a lot of preparation. I'm excited to see what happens."

As a field general, Tuliloa possesses certain qualities that Punahou head coach Kane Ane wants to further develop at the varsity level. For one, the young gun-slinger not only has good physical traits for his age, but he also possesses very good leadership skills.

"I think I'm really good at being a leader on the field," Tuliloa said. "I'm also really good at understanding certain players' strengths and weaknesses on the field and leading the offense. I just try to lead my team and win the ball game. I think that's one reason why my head coach wanted to move me up to practice with the varsity team."

While Tuliloa might not have been out on the field as Punahou battled Kahuku for state bragging rights, his cousin Ku-J Tapusoa – who has committed to BYU – was the Red Raider defensive captain.

"Ku-J came to Punahou his freshman year, but then he went back to Kahuku. So it was a lot of fun playing against Ku-J," said Tuliloa. "In the state title game he did really good."

Tapusoa and Tuliloa have a bit of a good-natured cousin rivalry.

"Yeah, he tried to boss me around because I'm sort of the young one," said Tuliloa with a little chuckle. "He's a little older than me, so I'm the young one.

Tapusoa and many of his fellow Red Raiders just finished playing in the Samoan Bowl, where the boys from Hawaii fell 21-20 to the players of Samoa. Now Tapusoa will focus on serving a mission, and after that he will play football at BYU.

"I think it's a great decision for him to go there," said Tuliloa. "Not a lot of guys graduating out of High School get the chance to go to a Division I college. Usually once you graduate, that's usually it, so for him to be able to go to college and play football is a great thing for him."

In the past, many top LDS football prospects came to BYU from the Kahuku/Laie area of Hawaii. Other gridiron players from the North Shore have chosen to go other places to play college football. Tuliloa said that he has been influenced by the example of his older cousin.

"Ku-J has had a big influence on a lot of us younger boys over here," said Tuliloa. "Seeing how he is going to go to college and play football and still go on a mission has been a big example to a lot of us over here. At times he's been very influential to a lot of us younger guys coming up."

The Punahou High School product wouldn't mind following his cousin to the next level one day.

"I wouldn't mind going to BYU at all," Tuliloa said. "Being Mormon, BYU is one of the schools that we grew up watching. We've always watched BYU because it's our church college, and I have a lot of family that live up there in Utah. So, if I was able to go there like Ku-J, I would feel right at home and not feel as much home sickness playing football there. It would kind of help."

BYU has been known for being a quarterback factory, having produced many All-American quarterbacks throughout the years. Tuliloa has thought about possibly being the first Samoan quarterback to start at BYU.

"Yeah, I've thought about that before and even my dad has mentioned that to me as well," said Tuliloa. "He just told me to work hard and maybe one day that could happen. He just kind of jokes around when we've been watching BYU games on T.V. He just kind of said, ‘You could be the first Samoan quarterback to play at BYU if you work hard.'"

As strong members of the LDS faith, the Tuliloa family has placed the spark of faith within their children with the hope they would one day serve missions.

"Yes, I want to serve a mission for sure," said Tuliloa. "I was born and raised up growing in the LDS Church, so serving missions is something my family puts first. It's something I'll one day do too."

To do so would be to follow a little deeper in the footsteps of his cousin, whom he respects.

"It would be an honor to play football at BYU and follow Ku-J over there," said Tuliloa. "At the same time it would be an honor to play at any college because the chances of that happening are very slim. Not everyone gets the chance to play college ball."

Aside from BYU, there are other colleges that have caught Tuliloa's attention.

"I really like the schools more on the West Coast just because they're closer to home," he said. "I like Stanford and Oregon and schools like those."

Although the well-spoken Tuliloa is only heading into his sophomore year of high school, he maturity and approach to the future are well above his years.

"I still have a few years left to prove myself at Punahou, but one of the big things that I'm looking for at the college level is if they'll allow me to leave and go on my mission," he said. "That's a big one. Also, just the school and what programs they have that I would be majoring in. I also think the type of coaches they have here and how well they prepare their players for games are some of the things that I want to look at when that time comes."

Tuliloa plans on attending summer camps at BYU and Utah and hopes to catch the eyes of potential college recruiters.

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