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High school football: Hunter High's team has an awful lot of brotherly love

Published: Saturday, Oct. 6 2012 10:21 p.m. MDT

Bishop Le'i, left, and his brother Izaiah Paongo-Le'i join other brothers on the Hunter High football team for photos Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012 during practice.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

WEST VALLEY CITY — Joseph Tiatia said playing with his two older brothers makes his high school football experience easier.

"There is more help," said the sophomore linebacker and running back. "We can go home and talk about the plays."

Junior linebacker Bishop Le'i and his older brother, senior running back and outside linebacker Izaiah Paongo-Le'i, couldn't agree more. In fact, they said playing with a sibling doesn't just mean more support, it means better team chemistry.

"I think it's a helpful factor, I can't really explain it," said Izaiha, a senior RB and outside linebacker.

Then Bishop jumps in, "We're all one unit.."

All coaches face the challenge of creating cohesiveness and chemistry within a team. But Hunter High head coach Scott Henderson had an unusual situation this season that could impact the team's chemistry — good or bad. He has six sets of brothers:

Ian, Stone and Noah Togiai; Hunter, Howard and Joseph Tiatia; Mahonri, Siale and Peter Makalio; Sione and Kaili Nai; Brian and Palepoi Gilmore; and Izaiah Paongo-Le'i and Bishop Le'i.

Two-thirds of the way through the season and leading the Region 2 race, having six sets of siblings on the roster seems to have enhanced the team's camaraderie.

"It's a different dynamic," said Henderson, who's never coached this many brothers on a single team. "They all get along. Actually, all the kids, we're one big happy family."

Maybe it's the excessive brotherly love, Henderson's not quite sure, but it's not just the biological brothers who take care of each other.

"The good thing about this group of kids is that they have bonded really well," he said. "They meet after every class in A hall. They're always hanging out at lunch together. It's a close group.'

Senior linebacker and tight end Ian Togiai said part of the ease is that the brothers are honest with each other, while senior linebacker Hunter Tiatia said all of the players grew up together so it feels like they're one big family.

Senior fullback and defensive tackle Sione Nai said he feels like he needs to set an example for his younger brother Kaili Nai, a sophomore offensive and defensive lineman.

"If I can set a good example, instead of being out there on the streets doing other stuff," said Sione Nai. "I just love the game."

He also believes playing with a sibling makes him more competitive, a sentiment the Le'i brothers echoed.

"I think it helps a lot, especially with competition," said Sione Nai. "If I see him starting, it makes me want to work more, give them a better look, push more. We compete with each other."

Kaili Nai laughs when his brother confesses that he's more a mama's boy, and then adds, "But my mom likes me more — because I'm the cutest."

To which his brother laughs and shakes his head.

Mahonri Makalio, a senior lineman, Siale Makalio, a junior linebacker, and Peter Makalio, a sophomore linebacker, said it's a different feeling to play together, which only occurs now that they are in high school.

"I probably like football more because of playing with them," said Mahonri, who is clearly the jokester of the family.

A little straw poll revealed that the brothers, while blending in with the rest of the team, definitely have their distinct personalities.

The brothers were asked these questions, which elicited laughter, trash talking and offered some insight into the siblings:

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