Pacers have proven players

By: Matt Mills/Telegraph Correspondent
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The Grant Pacers are used to success and amazing talent. Seemingly every year the team boasts amazing speed and ferocious hitters. This year will be no different as Grant opens the season ranked fourth in the nation in PowerAde Fab 50 ESPN Rise football rankings and returns 15 starters from last year’s squad, which went 12-1 overall. The Pacers will roll into Folsom to take on the Bulldogs at 7 p.m., August 27 with five potential college scholarship players who all feature on a defense that was the state’s best last year. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN 2. “I feel we will be very good on defense,” said Grant coach Mike Alberghini, whose team shut out eight opponents and set state record with 78 sacks last year. “We have to play consistently and play like we did last year.” The defense starts with a monster in the middle in 6-foot-3, 340-pound Vei Moala. The nose tackle, who also plays guard on offense, is receiving scholarship offers from all over the country, including defending national champion Alabama. Florida, USC and most of the Pac-10 also covet the player who requires a double-or-triple team on defense. “He is as dominating, tough and powerful as you will ever see,” Cal-Hi Sports Executive Editor Mark Tennis said. “He was our State Junior of the Year, which is pretty rare for a lineman.” Moala is ranked the 95th best player in the country according to ESPN, but by no means is he alone, since Moala needs a double-team most of the time, that opens the way for defensive end Puka Lopa. Lopa, who also starts at tackle on offense, is being recruited by Oregon State, Washington, Arizona, Arizona State and Fresno State. While Lopa and Moala both bench press 400 plus pounds, the leader of the defense is middle linebacker Darryl Paulo. Paulo, who also plays tight end, is being recruited by Washington State, San Diego State and Fresno State. Grant also boasts two highly recruited defensive backs in junior Shaq Thompson, who’s brother Syd-Quan, currently plays in the NFL with the Denver Broncos. Thompson will play corner, running back, wide receiver and maybe some quarterback for the Pacers, who have won six Sac-Joaquin Section football championships since 1992. “There offense is pretty good, “ said Thompson, of the Bulldogs’ spread style attack. “Being on television is a great opportunity for the entire country to watch how we play on the west coast.” Thompson is being shown interest by California, Tennessee, UCLA, UNLV and USC and is joined in the secondary by free safety James Sample. Sample, who also doubles as a receiver and is the team’s hardest hitter, is also being looked at by California and also has received letters from Washington, Oregon, Arizona and Arizona State. All will be key in the match-up with Folsom. “Folsom offers you a lot of things you have to defend. They have six really good players and they are very well organized,” Alberghini said. “This game will be pretty good for this area and will show Sacramento as a football town.”