In helping Long Beach Poly win its 18th Southern Section championship, defensive end Iuta Tepa proved to be a nonstop tackling machine, running down ballcarriers and pressuring quarterbacks with a level of intensity that inspired teammates and unnerved opponents.

The Times’ lineman of the year recorded 14 sacks and contributed more than 100 tackles for a defense that was considered the best in Southern California.

At 6 feet 2, 238 pounds, Tepa used quickness and agility to maneuver around blockers and consistently disrupt offenses.

His skills as a volleyball player could be seen on the football field, whether leaping to deflect a pass or crashing through a blocker to drag down a ballcarrier.


Opponents always tried to know where No. 99 was on the field, but Tepa still found ways to become involved in the play. He was relentless in his pursuit and displayed constant energy, which encouraged teammates to match him in effort.

Only once in 15 games did Poly’s defense allow more than two touchdowns, and Tepa’s presence was decisive.

-- Eric Sondheimer