BURIEN – The lineage is long.
From Mike Utley to Kevin Freitag to Cole Madison, Kennedy Catholic High School has produced outstanding defensive linemen the past four decades.
But Manase Kamoto is a cut above, according to longtime coach Bob Bourgette — at least at the same stage the others were when they were entering their senior seasons.
Bourgette, in his 20th year as head coach and 43rd with the program, knows he might take some flak for the statement — his wife warned him as much — but he makes it nonetheless.
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“I’m just saying that at this time in his career, this guy’s the best defensive lineman I’ve ever had here,” Bourgette said.
At 6-foot, 305 pounds, Kamoto certainly commands attention — but it’s his accompanying strength and quickness that set him apart. Coaches recognized his potential early, when he first turned out for the Rainier Beach youth football program at age 10.
“The coaches told my dad I could be a force both ways,” Kamoto said.
He grew into one, but has a strong preference for defense, where he is considered an all-state prospect.
“I like getting after people,” Kamoto said. “Defense is more aggressive than offense.”
Ironically, he didn’t enjoy the physical nature of the sport when he first tried it.
“I didn’t like hitting at the time,” he said.
His father, Ameti, a former running back at Auburn High School who grew up in Tonga, made sure he stuck with the game.
“If it wasn’t for my dad pushing me every day, I don’t think I’d be where I am right now,” Kamoto said.
He also credits his older brother, Jeffery, who was just 21 when he was killed in an accident in 2009.
“He was like another father figure to me,” Kamoto said. “He helped raise me. … He taught me to be humble and to thank people, and to work hard, because it will pay off.”
Kamoto, who attended Evergreen High School as a freshman but didn’t play football, became a two-way starter at Kennedy his sophomore year. His weight-room work paid off last season with a Seamount-best 19 tackles for loss. He was an all-league choice on both sides of the ball and named the offensive lineman of the year.
Since then, Kamoto has dropped nearly 20 pounds and gained interest from several Division I recruiters. He believes his performance this season could net him offers.
“This is my season to get a scholarship,” Kamoto said. “That’s kind of my motivation. That and coach B (Bourgette), and my family.”
He is also motivated by last year’s 38-14 loss to Lindbergh, which gave the Eagles a Seamount championship that traditionally belongs to Kennedy.
“We’re striving to get our title back,” Kamoto said.
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