Cook Inlet Conference quarterbacks better be alert when playing against East this season, because senior defensive ends Ma'o Tosi and Jeremiah Ieremia will be in fast pursuit.
"Me and him always have a competition, a race to the quarterback," Tosi said. "I like to hit. It feels pretty manly."
Both players stand 6-feet tall and weigh about 290 pounds. Tosi plays right defensive end and Ieremia plays left. They both also play on the offensive line, but prefer chasing quarterbacks to blocking linebackers.
Having known each other since eighth grade, Tosi said the duo barely has to speak to remain in sync on the field, where they continually learn from each other.
"He's a beast," Ieremia said of Tosi. "His hand movements and the way he swings with his body, that's what I'm trying to work on."
Ieremia, a tenor with the East High choir who likes singing Billy Joel songs and also plans to do some acting with an advanced play production class this winter, is a vocal team leader who likes to shout at teammates during games.
"He yells at me sometimes too," Tosi said.
Tosi prefers to lead by example, but on the rare occasion he chooses to speak, the whole team listens, said East coach Jeff Trotter.
"They just took over the leadership of the team this year," Trotter said. "We weren't sure who was gonna step up, but they both did by their play and their actions."
From consistently showing up for weight-room sessions to improving their grades, Trotter said both players have helped promote a disciplined environment, and teammates have responded. Last season East had 25 academically ineligible players, compared to just four this season, Trotter said.
Tosi and Ieremia both improved their skills at football camps Outside this summer, where Trotter said they impressed some of the college coaches in attendance. Tosi and Ieremia both aspire to play in college and Trotter thinks they have a chance to excel on a defensive line.
"For their size, they are very quick and their feet are just awesome," Trotter said. "At the next level, everyone's big, but the guys who can move stand out from the rest."
At the high school level, Tosi and Ieremia make pretty good offensive linemen as well. This is the first season the two have started together on offense, with Tosi at tackle and Ieremia at guard. East running back Diego Su'ate'o, for one, is happy to have the big men running in front of him.
"They're stronger than anyone else, I feel like, and I'll put them against any other linemen any day," Su'ate'o said. "When they pull, I just follow."
East lost to Juneau in the first round of the large-school state playoffs last season, but Ieremia thinks the Thunderbirds can improve on that result this season.
East was one of two CIC teams to start its season with a win last weekend, earning a 42-7 nonconference win at Kenai. The Thunderbirds begin conference play Friday night when they face South, the only other CIC team with a win.
Reach Jeremy Peters at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335.
This weekend's football schedule
South vs. East, Anchorage Football Stadium, 7 p.m.
Dimond at Chugiak, 7 p.m.
Seward at Eielson, 6 p.m.
Skyview at Nikiski, 6:30 p.m.
Palmer at Lathrop, 7 p.m.
Kenai at Colony, 7 p.m.
West at Eagle River, 6 p.m.
Service vs. Bartlett, AFS, 7 p.m.
Thunder Mountain at Sitka, 1 p.m.
Homer at Barrow, 1 p.m.
Houston at Kodiak, 1 p.m.
Ketchikan at Soldotna, 2 p.m.
Valdez at Monroe, 7 p.m.
North Pole at West Valley, 7 p.m.
Wasilla at Juneau, 8 p.m.