He was one of the hardest-working players on the field.
Tupouata, a recent graduate of Patterson High School, suited up for the South team during the game at Amos A. Stagg Memorial Stadium.
The 5-foot-11, 185-pounder was listed at linebacker on the roster, though he was a standout for the Tigers on offense and defense.
“His intensity on the field is unmatched, while his sportsmanship has always been top-notch,” Patterson coach Rob Cozart said.
Tupouata was one of three players recognized as team captains at the Tigers’ annual team banquet Dec. 7. He also garnered Impact Player of the Year honors and earned a spot on the All-Western Athletic Conference second team in his junior season.
“Hola was, and will continue to be at Modesto Junior College, a player that plays with a lot of passion and sheer will,” Cozart said.
As for the game, it was a lot like a 1,500-meter race: fairly humdrum for most of the event, then very exciting at the end.
With Atwater High quarterback Nathan Sanchez laboring for a first down that could have preserved a South win, Escalon’s Nick Largent reached in and knocked the ball loose.
The North scooped it up with about 4 minutes remaining — plenty of time for St. Mary’s quarterback Marcus McDade to rally the North to a 15-14 win.
Trailing 14-7, McDade guided the North 71 yards in 2:11, needing only eight plays.
Stagg’s Ty Minkin carried it in from the 5-yard line to make it a one-point game. McDade then hooked up with Sierra of Manteca’s Anthony Hall for a two-point conversion and the win.
Tupouata, meanwhile, was in the thick of several defensive plays, careening around linemen, snuffing out runs and assisting on tackles, helping the South maintain its lead throughout the first three quarters.
Cozart had predicted what Tupouata’s impact on the field would be.
“He’s never shied away from contact, so I’m sure he’ll he have some solid hits on the North squad ball carriers,” Cozart said before the game.
With the victory, the North increased its edge in the series to 22-14-1.