The Jersey Devil Likes BYU

There is not a large Polynesian presence on the east coast, but one Samoan football player is making up for that in the Garden State. The LDS athlete is ranked as the 6th best defensive player in New Jersey's Shore Region, a region that contains 42 high schools. His dominant play is a major reason for his school's run deep into the state playoffs.

At 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, Justin Togisala has playing as an undersized defensive end for Monmouth Regional High School in Tinton Falls, New Jersey. He projects as a linebacker in college due to his size, yet despite not playing his natural position, Togisala has racked up some very impressive stats.

"I average about three sacks per game," Togisala said. "We've played nine games [8-1] so far. I think I have about 14 or 15 sacks on the season so far. If I were to go to college, I would play middle linebacker.

"We have a lot of speed but my coaches were looking for a defensive end that had speed and strength, and I guess he saw that in me. Our team doesn't have really big players that can move. We have size but we don't have speed and I guess that's why he put me at defensive end."

Like on the football field, Togisala also gets it done in the weight room.

"I don't bench all that much," said a humble Togisala. "The last time I benched I did 315, and I squatted 600 pounds. I don't know what my vertical leap is but I can dunk a small basketball."

Monmouth head coach Bobby Acosta, who was recently picked by the New York Giants as the high school coach of the week, had this to say about Togisala.

"The coaches enjoy his non-complaining, self-motivating, high religious values, and his aggressive attack mode," said Acosta. "He's known for his speed, agility, and hard hitting, great open field tackles, sacks, and team building style—the silent Samoan leader."

This season, Togisala helped anchor a defense ranked number one in the Shore Liberty Conference and in the entire Shore Region which contains six divisions in New Jersey, and for the first time in school history, Monmouth Regional High School became division champs.

"As a junior I received team MVP," Togisala said. "Rutgers has been out to see one of my games. They're doing really good this year too."

Against Central High School, Coach Acosta asked Togisala to go both ways and play offensive guard for the first time. The following week, Coach Acosta asked him to play the position again against Ocean High School, a team they defeated 32-14 to win their first state playoff game.

"I did pretty good," said Togisala. "I play about half the game. It's sure shocking because one of our tackles Chandler West got sick but he came back in the fourth quarter I think."

After answering the calls to help out the offensive line, Coach Acosta told Togisala that the team needed him to start both ways because he inspired his teammates to perform at a championship level.

This Friday, Togisala will help lead his team against Middle Town South High School in the semi-finals.

"They're number two in the state," said Togisala. "I'm pretty nervous about that, but we were watching film on them, and we think our defense can do good against him. They have a fullback that looks around 230 pounds and is a heavyset kind of guy. He just runs straight ahead and is their main weapon. Their offensive line is pretty quick and fast but our defense has speed and power too, so I think we'll be alright. If we win this game we go to Rutgers to play in the state championship."

Ever since Togisala was twelve years old he's had the dream of one day playing for BYU to make his die-hard Cougar fan grandfather proud.

"I went to go see a BYU game with my grandpa, who is a huge fan, and so I've always thought I would like to play for that team some day," said Togisala. "This year they're doing pretty good. It's not like how they were playing in the past. I don't know what's happening out there but it's better overall."

After attending BYU' S.O.A.R program last year, Togisala was even more convinced that BYU was the place he wanted be, especially with his desire to serve an LDS mission.

"I went out to their S.O.A.R program," Togisala said. "It's a multicultural program to help kids with the ACT and try to get you interested in BYU and the campus and all that. I finally got a chance to see the campus for the first time last year with the SORE program, and it's huge.

"It's a place with a good environment and you're required to have one spiritual class. It's just a good environment where people can go who share the same beliefs. To be around people like that is more comforting."

Currently the coaches at Monmouth are putting together a few video highlights for the Togisala family to send to BYU, and even though the Cougars have 23 current football commits so far on the season, Togisala still hopes to one day be a BYU Cougar.

"If BYU doesn't offer me a scholarship I would probably go on my mission," Togisala said. "I would hope they would offer me because there isn't any other school that I want to go to but BYU. I would probably go on my mission then come back and apply for BYU then try and walk on if I have to."

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