CLOSER LOOK: La Sierra DE A.J. Fanene

Riverside La Sierra senior DE A.J. Fanene had 12 solo tackles in a 23-6 victory over Ontario Chaffey on Friday, Nov. 18. It was the Eagles first playoff victory since 2005. / Dennis Pope Photography

Take a closer look a Riverside La Sierra DE A.J. Fanene and you’ll see a fierce competitor, a rock of a man, and one of the best interior lineman in the Inland Area.

Fanene imposed his will upon Ontario Chaffey’s offensive line last Friday as La Sierra won their first playoff game since 2005 with a 23-6 result at Alvord School District Stadium.

He shed opponents and created gaps for linebackers. He got under smaller foes and toppled bigger ones. His intensity was palpable, and when he was in solitude on the sideline, he was blowing up the line of scrimmage.

I caught up with Fanene after the game, and aside from that which I quoted in my story for The Press-Enterprise that can be read here, he had some smart, insightful things to say about the game, his team, and himself.

What did it take to bring down Chaffey’s running game tonight?

“I’m a person that likes to make tackles for gains but I just barely figured it out, second half. All I had to do is plug up holes. And that’s what it took,” Fanene said.

It seemed like Chaffey was trying to stand you up and walk you down the field. What became the defense’s strategy?

“If you can’t hold your ground they’ll push you back. We held up and our linebackers got the tackles.”

What does winning a playoff game at home in your senior season mean to you?

“This year means alot because last year we played against Palm Springs first round and we got taken out first round. Especially now that I’m a senior, this is home, this means a lot to me, and especially to my family, too. So it means a lot.”

Fanene (6-foot-1, 280 pounds) may not yet have the build to attract scads of recuiters, but he certainly has the frame to play at the highest levels.

He has a passion to play the game, and with some luck and a lot more hard work, Fanene’s mentality to flatten foes may have him playing on Saturdays and Sundays.

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