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

Published: Tuesday, July 7 2015 6:26 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) 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:

Hunter High football's Tiatia brothers Joseph, left, Hunter and Howard pose for photos Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012 during practice. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) Hunter High football's Tiatia brothers Joseph, left, Hunter and Howard pose for photos Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012 during practice. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

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.'

Mahonri, left, Siale and Peter Makalio Brothers on the Hunter High football team pose for photos Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012 during practice. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) Mahonri, left, Siale and Peter Makalio Brothers on the Hunter High football team pose for photos Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012 during practice. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

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."

Higher High's football team, which sits atop the Region 2 standings, features six sets of brothers on its roster. Most of them pose here for a photo at the school's stadium.     (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) Higher High's football team, which sits atop the Region 2 standings, features six sets of brothers on its roster. Most of them pose here for a photo at the school's stadium. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

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:

Sione, left, and Kaili Nai are brothers on the Hunter High football team. Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012 during practice. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) Sione, left, and Kaili Nai are brothers on the Hunter High football team. Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012 during practice. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

Which set of brothers would you not want to fight? The Le'is or Tiatias because "the twins would double-team everyone."

Which set of brothers is most likely to pick a fight? That was a toss up between the Le'is and Nais.

Which set of brothers is most likely to play a joke on coach Henderson? The Nais — specifically, Kaili Nai; or the Makalios, specifically Mahonri.

Which set of brothers provides the most leadership? The Togiais.

Which set of brothers is best at trash talking? "Every family has one brother," said Sione Nai, who points out his younger brother Kaili takes that honor in their family.

The brothers said they're proud to be the group returning Hunter football to the list of contenders.

"The Hunter kids are emotional, and they're real emotional in games," said Henderson. "Over the years, the Hunter football traditions have been established, and the players know they have people watching them. They want to carry the torch. That's a big thing, west side pride."

And this year, the team is on its way to earning the west side title with a 3-0 region record after a come-from-behind win against Kearns on Friday night.

Email: adonaldson@desnews.com

Prep football rankings

Class 5A

Team Rec. Pv.

1. Jordan 6-1 1

2. Syracuse 8-0 2

3. Alta 6-2 3

4. Northidge 7-1 5

5. Bingham 6-2 —

Class 4A

Team Rec. Pv.

1. East 7-0 1

2. Timpview 7-1 2

3. Mtn. Crest 6-2 5

4. Logan 6-2 3

5. Box Elder 6-2 —

Class 3A

Team Rec. Pv.

1. Hurricane 7-0 1

2. Juan Diego 8-0 2

3. Stansbury 8-0 3

4. Sp. Fork 7-1 5

5. Dixie 7-1 4

Class 2A

Team Rec. Pv.

1. San Juan 8-0 1

2. Manti 7-1 2

3. S. Summit 6-2 3

4. Millard 7-1 4

5. Grand 6-2 —

Class 1A

Team Rec. Pv.

1. Duchesne 7-0 1

2. Rich 5-2 3

3. D. Ranch 5-3 —

4. Altamont 3-5 5

5. Monticello 5-3 2

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