SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- When Concord (Calif.) De La Salle four-star defensive tackle Boss Tagaloa took the field at Hornet Stadium in Sacramento Saturday night, he had something to prove.
As his Spartan squad was seeking back-to-back state championships in the Open Division in a rematch against Southern California powerhouse Corona Centennial, the No. 1 team in the nation in some rankings, Tagaloa was searching for a measure of redemption.
“He had a big ol’ chip on his shoulder because last year, he felt like it was his fault that we gave up 500 yards and that many points, the 42 points,” teammate and good friend Devin Asiasi said. “He was really dialed in this whole week, focused in, and his mentality was just great. His work ethic this week was just great. He showed it to you. He made big stops at critical points in the game.”
In the 2014 championship, De La Salle won 63-42, but Centennial rolled up 534 yards and scored more points than De La Salle had allowed in more than 35 years. Tagaloa made sure that didn’t happen again. He was a force in the middle of the Spartans’ defensive line. He finished with 11 total tackles, including two in the backfield for losses, to help lead De La Salle to a 28-21 victory.
Centennial finished more than 150 yards below its season average and came nowhere near the 56 points per game it had been scoring prior to the championship game.
“It was the whole d-line — a team defensive effort. This is the greatest defense I’ve ever played with man,” Tagaloa said of being able to shut down Centennial, including stopping them on five of seven fourth down conversion attempts.
“We’ve been practicing against this offense for like three weeks now. We knew we were going to play these guys. They are a great team. The key was just squeezing the holes, shutting down JJ Taylor, [Anthony] Catalano. They like to widen out the splits, try to get space to let their athletic guys get the ball and run in space.”
Even with dried blood clotted on his nose and a wrap of tape bandannaed around his head, Tagaloa was all smiles after the game. His forehead had been gashed during the game on a play his helmet popped off. The trainers had essentially glued the wound shut, spraying an adhesive spray to stop the bleeding.
“It was a freak accident. My helmet came off and I think somebody’s face mask hit me right, scratched it and cut it open.”
The 6-foot-1, 295-pounder missed only a handful of plays before getting right back in the game where he clogged up the middle on defense and created holes for the Spartan rushers at offensive tackle.
“I’ve been a part of three state championship teams. I was also a part of the team that lost, so just to be a part of all four of those teams, it’s just a blessing to see how far our team has come. I love playing with this group of guys, special group of guys.”
With his high school career now over, the attention turns to what group of guys the top 100 prospect and No. 1 defensive tackle in the West will play with at the next level. Considered a UCLA lean, Tagaloa got a new, and potentially game-changing offer last week when USC told him it wanted him in cardinal and gold.
“It’s just a blessing to have that opportunity. USC is such a prestigious school. To get an offer by them is just a blessing,” Tagaloa said. “We’ll see where it goes from here. It’s definitely big and huge.”
Even more excited than Tagaloa may have been Asiasi.
“It means the world to me because that’s my brother,” Asiasi said. “Ever since the seventh-eighth grade, man, we’ve been together. We went through so many things and we got to the position that we are right now. We’ve just been so blessed.”
“For him to get that offer, it gives him another opportunity to go to a school that gives him the best opportunities he can get, not for only football, but for life. I think it’s great for him and it’s all up to him in the end.
But with less than two months until National Signing Day, did the Trojans wait until too late in the process?
“It’s just right. Any offer is good. I don’t really care what time it comes. It’s just a blessing to have those opportunities.”
Tagaloa and Asiasi both plan to announce their decisions on National Signing Day. They would love to continue playing together at the next level, but don’t consider themselves a package deal.
“We’ll see how it goes. Whatever is best for him, that’s what I’ll choose,” Tagaloa said before correcting himself. “It’s just what is best for the both of us. If what he wants out of a college is somewhere different from what I want, you know I’m happy for him and whatever decision he makes.”
The Trojans are still working to get Tagaloa to take an official visit. Asiasi says he’s going to make it happen.
“Oh yea, he’s going to take a visit to [USC]. He’s definitely going to take a visit. I’m making him take a visit because I went to the UCLA visit with him, so he’s taking the USC visit with me.”