CLOSER LOOK: Rancho Verde’s Tevita Halalilo

Try to take a closer look at Moreno Valley Rancho Verde senior Tevita Halalilo and he won’t let you.

He’s big (6-foot-3, 245 pounds) and kind of scary, and he just doesn’t want to take his helmet off, OK?

Halalilo, a two-year varsity player, switched positions to middle linebacker before this season and is making opponents wish he hadn’t. The team’s defensive captain, he averages more than 7.5 tackles per game with six tackles for losses on the year.

He stalked Riverside Arlington QB Carter Alvarado in Week 10 before undercutting a short passing route and returning his interception 15 yards for a touchdown as Rancho Verde built an early 21-0 lead en route to a 55-6 victory on Friday, Nov. 4, 2016.

We caught up with him afterward. What did you see on the interception?
Tevita Halalilo: “Pre-snap I took a look at the quarterback, and he was looking to his right, and it was 3rd-and-long so I kind of figure, ‘OK. Let’s drop. Let’s try to drop and jump this pass right here to the left of me.’ He came, did his little slant and I just picked it off and took it to the house.” What will playoff preparation by like for this team?
TH: “We have playoffs coming on so that’s going to be a huge week of practice for us. We have to take it one step at a time like my coach was saying. We have Part 1, Part 2; Right now we’re in Part 3 of the season and that’s the playoff season. It’s going to be a huge opportunity for us, and this week of practice going into Round 1 is going to be huge for us.” What will the focus be on after such a lopsided game this week?
TH: “We’ll hit the books, hit the film room and get ready for next week.” Is this team playing at a pace that’s ready for the playoffs?
TH: “I feel like we’re right where we need to be. We can only get better from here on out.” How has the overtime loss in Week 0 influenced the nine game winning streak?
TH: “After the first week we’ve rallied up and were coming together. We took preseason very well (and) just took league tonight, and yeah, getting ready for that third part of the season.” How do you see your role on this team?
TH: “As the leader of the defense I try to keep my guys in control. The white hat tells me every time, ‘Hey, keep your boys in control.’ That’s my job. To lead by example on and off the field, and that includes the classroom. They see me around campus. That’s my role.” What is the recruiting process like so far?
TH: “Getting recruited by some good D1 schools (but) I’m taking it slow. It’s my first year playing linebacker, and I just went on my first trip so as of right now I’m feeling comfortable about it going into the playoffs. I think my chances of playing football after high school are pretty good.”

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