Osa Masina had plenty of hype heading into his senior year. If last Friday was any indication, he is every bit as good as advertised. Don't let the stat-sheet fool you - despite horrendous playing conditions including torrential rain, wind gusts of up to 40 MPH, and delays due to lightning, Masina persevered and demonstrated just how good he is at football.
Masina's versatility was on full display against American Fork Friday night. In addition to playing his traditional outside linebacker position on defense Osa also lined up at fullback, split out wide as a receiver, and played some tailback. He even returned kicks and punts on special teams.
As a junior Masina rushed for over 1,600 yards and 25 touchdowns, but on Friday night his primary role was to protect the ball-carrier rather than be the ball-carrier. Masina was used mainly as a lead blocker on offense for the better part of the game. In the fourth quarter he took over with punishing blocks, selflessly opening up gaps and taking on defensive linemen that outweighed him by 40-60 pounds. Despite the size difference, he easily accounted for a half-dozen pancakes in the contest.
In short, he did it all.
But while Masina's offensive game was more gritty than glamorous, his play on defense was a thing of beauty.
Despite the heavy rain which slowed even the fastest athletes either team had to offer, Masina's play was barely affected. Unofficially I tallied around a dozen solo tackles for the Brighton star including a few stops in the American Fork backfield. Brighton's defense was on the field a lot for a stretch after back-to-back fumbles by the offense, but despite that his motor never let up.
Masina's play was impressive to say the least, but his leadership is what stood out most on Friday. He was the general of the defense and he held his team together when they were down 17-8 in the final quarter.
Just when it looked like Brighton was going to drop their season opener, Masina took his intensity to a new level. He fired up his teammates whenever he sensed they were giving up and demanded they stay focused. He was the first to congratulate a teammate after a good play and was the first to help them up after a missed tackle or blown assignment.
When American Fork scored and went up 23-16 with just a few minutes remaining, Masina refused to quit. It was at this point when he proved how invaluable he truly is.
"Osa came up to me and looked me in my eyes and told me that I was going to catch the kickoff, run behind him, and he was going to get me to the end-zone" three-star junior Drew Jensen claimed. "He said I was going to take the kick to the house and then we were going to go for the two point conversion and the win. It happened exactly like he told me. I got the kick and he lead me to the endzone, 75 yards. Then, he talked my coach into going for the win with a 2 pt conversion. On the conversion, it was a wildcat package, where I took the snap and ran in right behind him. Everything happened just like Osa said it would."
On paper Masina may only show a few touches on offense, but it was all of the other things he did that made him so outstanding on Friday night.
It was his 40-yard kickoff return.
It was his lead-blocking from the fullback position.
It was his touchdown-saving sticks in the open field.
But maybe most importantly it was his ability to make the guys around him believe they could win.
Statistic-loaded games will come for Masina, there's no doubt about that. Week one was about much more than gaudy numbers and a blowout victory. It may not have been pretty, but it was exactly the type of game that shows why Osa Masina is one of the most highly sought-after prospects in the country.