ST. GEORGE — Dixie High defensive linemen Jeff Martinez and Keanu Faumuina don’t look, sound or act alike. But once they put on their uniforms, there’s no question the two are brothers.
“A lot of us, including Keanu and me, have played together at the varsity level for three years now,” Martinez said. “I remember my sophomore year, Keanu and I and a few others were brought up to varsity and we’ve grown here together. We already know what the other guy is going to do, just by little things, little keys that we’ve picked up on. Just like your family.”
Faumuina agreed, saying the fellowship on Dixie and on the defensive line, is strong.
“We work and do what we do for each other, for the team,” he said. “You can progress when you do things for yourself, but it is much greater if you’re doing them for a greater cause, for a brotherhood.”
Against Tooele in the 3AA semifinals, the two linemen were at their best. Martinez had 10 tackles, a sack and a tackle for loss and basically made a living in the Buffaloes’ backfield.
Faumuina was on the other side of the defensive line, absorbing double teams in the first half and cleaning things up when the ball came his way. He had six tackles, including one for loss.
“We say we hate playing the wing-T offense, but it can be really fun,” Faumuina said. “There were times against Tooele when they would hand the guy the ball and he would run right into me.”
Of course, the two know it will be a whole different animal in the championship game against a high-powered spread team like Logan. Defensive line coach Wayne Alofipo said his D will be ready.
“Logan is very, very good,” he said. “But we are working hard to be ready for them. Those two guys, Jeff and Keanu, will be key. They are the anchors of our defense.”
The two senior linemen are similar in size, with Martinez coming in at 6-foot-2, 265-pounds. Faumuina is a bit leaner, checking in at 6-1, 245. But, with the exception of their dominant presence on the field, that’s where the similarities end.
Faumuina, the oldest of five kids, comes from an athletic heritage. His dad played football and his mom was a track star. He has the solid frame of a typical Samoan and uses it to his advantage on the line.
Martinez’s parents lean more toward the academic side. His father is a professor at Dixie State and his mom runs a pet rescue operation in southern Utah. An excellent student, Martinez is studious and thoughtful, an unlikely football star.
But in his first game at the varsity level, Martinez had three sacks and intercepted a pitch play and ran it back for a touchdown (though it was called back on a teammate’s personal foul penalty).
“Jeff’s meant a lot to this program,” Alofipo said. “He’s a special kid, very intelligent. And one thing he has over a lot of kids is he has a great pad level. That gives him great leverage.”
Faumuina has five sacks this season and often draws double-teams. In fact, many opponents are faced with the quandary of which one to double on the line. Sophomore defensive end Tyson Fisher has had a field day, picking up nine sacks this year while rarely getting double-teamed and sometimes not getting blocked at all.
“Jeff and Keanu are stalwarts for us and the biggest reason we’ve been successful this year,” Alofipo said. “When the offense has to gameplan for your defensive linemen, that says something.”
The two seniors have one last game together, and though they have one state championship ring already (2014), they don’t plan on leaving the field without having given their best effort.
“We’re looking forward to the challenge of playing Logan,” Martinez said. “This deep into the playoffs, you just have to find ways to win. You have to figure out a way to make your weaknesses into your strengths. And a lot of that is just giving complete effort on every play.”
Faumuina reiterated the point.
“What would you do for your family?” he said. “We play for each other. Hopefully, that will lead to a win. I want to win this for my brothers.”
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