It shouldn't surprise anyone who's followed Utah high school football in the '90s that Hunter High has a couple of powerful running backs on its squad this year.
Since their inaugural season of 1990, the Wolverines have had more outstanding running backs in their program each year than most regions see in a decade."I'd like to say it has a lot to do with the coaching," said Hunter coach John Lambourne, "but we just take what we have and make the best of it. We've been fortunate."
Pardon him while he counts his universe of lucky stars. Even at this Running Back Factory, it's rare to have two quality players in the same backfield who are as talented as David Fiefia and Joe Lomu.
Thanks in large part to their success last year and in the first two games this season, the Wolverines are ranked No. 2 in the state going into tonight's home showdown with Kearns.
"They (are) two of the best running backs in the state," said Kearns coach Marv Magalei.
In Fiefia, the Wolverines have a Barry Sanders-type running back. Like the Lions superstar, the first-team Deseret News all-stater thrives on using his outstanding lateral mobility to bounce between and around defenders like a frantic pinball.
Lomu, who made second-team all-state as a junior, can also move side-to-side well, but he prefers to power his way through opponents more than Fiefia does.
"They really complement each other well," Lambourne said. "I think the world of both of them."
He's certainly not alone. Hunter's two standout seniors, who each notched over 1,000 yards rushing a year ago, are giving opposing defensive coordinators and collegiate recruiters plenty to think about.
"Lomu gets all the dirty yards inside," Magalei said. "And Fiefia's probably the quickest guy this side of the California border."
Lambourne said he runs about the same plays for both of them as they split carries. And, though they do have different styles, Fiefia and Lomu have produced statistics that are amazingly similar so far this year.
Lomu has rushed 25 times for 156 yards in Hunter's two wins. Fiefia has carried the ball 28 times for 157 yards. They both scored three touchdowns against Cottonwood last week. Get this, they've even punted the ball three times apiece.
No wonder a natural rivalry exists between them. Neither has given up an edge or let the other one slip since Lomu moved to Utah from Hawaii four years ago.
"It's good that way," Lomu said of the rivalry. "Every time you run the ball you always want to be better than each other, so that makes us both better running backs."
"There's a rivalry, but it seems to make our team better," added Fiefia. "That rivalry's a good thing."
Well, except for that one time when they were sophomores and they ended up in a fistfight during practice. They joke about the incident now, though.
"We were challenging each other, seeing who could run the best in practice," Lomu said, smiling. "I got stopped and he got stopped and we got mad at each other, and so we started punching."
"I didn't fight back," Fiefia laughed. "I was just backing off."
Lomu and Fiefia do agree on another point, though. Success would be tough to come by without their solid offensive line - they call 'em their "hogs" - going to war for them up front.
"We gotta treat them good, because that's how we get our yardage," Lomu said.
Fiefia found that out the hard way when he played little league ball before moving to the Hunter area.
"Without a good line you can't really function well," he said. "I learned that at Kearns."
It was also while he played in Kearns that he started to watch the Hunter rushing attack grind up some big yards.
"I always heard about Hunter High running backs and how tough they were," he said. "I knew Tefua Bloomfield and I watched him when I was a little kid."
He obviously watched carefully as Bloomfield and Auono Laumua set the precedent in the early '90s at Hunter. Laumua nearly gained 1,000 yards when the first Hunter team went 0-9 in 1990. He and Bloomfield then rushed for about 1,600 yards apiece the next year when Hunter incredibly made it to the state championship game. After that, Bloomfield briefly went on to play at BYU.
Ex-Ute Juan Johnson was next in line, but he was injured for about half of his junior and senior seasons. Not that that slowed the Wolverine runners down. In 1992, David Castro switched from fullback to halfback, and he ended up being a 1,000-yard rusher. Ryan Renteria and Dylan Bushnell kept the pace up for the next couple of years.
In 1995, Craig Coulter rushed for over 1,000 yards, while being backed up by Ofa Lomu (Joe's older brother) and Zack Hancuff. Hancuff then ran for over 1,500 yards the next year.
That set the stage for Fiefia and Lomu to move into the spotlight last season, and they've been tearing up the field ever since. If they keep it up, they could lead Hunter to its first state championship later this year.
"When we're in a tough situation, and it's intense and we have to win, I really honestly believe that personal recognition is irrelevant to them," Lambourne said. "When it comes down to having to win a ballgame, that's what they're going to care about."