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TOP CAT SOPOAGA IS A FORCE FOR COUGARS.



Byline: Gideon Rubin Staff Writer

SANTA CLARITA Santa Clarita, city (1990 pop. 110,642), Los Angeles co., S Calif., suburb 30 mi (48 km) NW of downtown Los Angeles, on the Santa Clara River; inc. 1987. Situated in the Santa Clara valley and nearby canyons, Santa Clarita includes the former towns of Canyon Country,  - As a part-time diplomat, part-time destroyer, Isaac Sopoaga Isaac "ICEBOX" Sopoaga (born on September 4, 1981 in Pago Pago, American Samoa) is a player in the NFL. He plays the nose tackle position. He was one of the strongest players in the draft, performing 42 bench-press repetitions of 225 pounds, bested only by Igor Olshansky's 43 in  wears different hats for College of the Canyons College of the Canyons is one of the fastest-growing community colleges in the state. According to the National Junior College Research Association, College of the Canyons consistently ranks in the top 50 community colleges in the nation. .

The 6-foot-4 290-pound native of Samoa has already established himself as a menacing presence on COC's defensive line. Both powerful and swift, the 19-year-old sophomore, who runs a 40-yard-dash in 4.8 seconds, is a Junior College All-American candidate, according to according to
prep.
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

3.
 COC See chip on chip.  coach Chuck Lyon.

But the talented defender has demonstrated the ability to do more than just wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks. As one of nine Samoan players on the Cougars roster, he has also emerged as a settling influence on a team that features diverse cultural backgrounds.

``He's a steadying force for our Samoan culture, they look up to him for answers,'' Lyon said, noting his uncanny ability to resolve conflicts.

``When two guys on the field are getting into an argument, he'll just step between them and say, `That's enough','' Lyon said.

``And they'll stop.''

Sopoaga's leadership on and off the field has helped the Cougars to a 3-0 start this season.

COC is preparing for a crucial Western State Conference showdown Saturday night, when it hosts Hancock of Santa Maria Santa Maria, city, Brazil
Santa Maria (sän`tə mərē`ə), city (1991 pop. 217,592), Rio Grande do Sul state, S Brazil. It is a major railroad terminus and the site of an important military base.
.

Several Division I schools - including San Diego San Diego (săn dēā`gō), city (1990 pop. 1,110,549), seat of San Diego co., S Calif., on San Diego Bay; inc. 1850. San Diego includes the unincorporated communities of La Jolla and Spring Valley. Coronado is across the bay.  State and Utah - are already trying to recruit Sopoaga. But the Cougars' standout defensive lineman said that given the preference, he hopes to play at UCLA UCLA University of California at Los Angeles
UCLA University Center for Learning Assistance (Illinois State University)
UCLA University of Carrollton, TX and Lower Addison, TX
 or USC An abbreviation for U.S. Code. .

``He's basically a freak of nature,'' said sophomore John Harrison, who is playing with Sopoaga on the Cougars defensive line for the second straight season.

``He doesn't even work out and he's the strongest guy on the team by far.

``It takes pressure off me inside having him there. If I go around the quarterback and the quarterback steps up I know Isaac will be right in front of him.''

Sopoaga, who was recruited by defensive coordinator Leon Criner, had spent his entire life in Fagasan, a small Samoan village, until he moved to Canyon Country last summer.

He is part of a great football family, and he and eight of his brothers sport No. 48 on their uniforms, which is the number their father, Lancelot Sopoaga, wore during his high school playing days.

Sopoaga said he was recruited by several universities and junior colleges in the United States This is a list of junior colleges in the United States. As private institutions, they are not to be confused with public two-year community colleges. Alabama
  • Marion Military Institute, Marion
  • Bevill State Community College, Hamilton,Alabama
, but he selected COC in part because he has many relatives in California, and because the Cougars were the first team that offered him a scholarship.

According to Lyon, Sopoaga experienced some growing pains grow·ing pains
pl.n.
Pains in the limbs and joints of children or adolescents, frequently occurring at night and often attributed to rapid growth but arising from various unrelated causes.
 during his freshman season, which showed up on the field and in the classroom.

A year ago Sopoaga missed two games, including the Hancock contest, as a result of a suspension he incurred when he was seen by an official hitting an opposing player - which Sopoaga said was in retaliation for a cheap shot the referee didn't see.

Sopoaga hit the opposing player in the helmet with his bare fist, knocking him to the ground. The impact of hitting a hard shell with his unpadded hand, he said was similar to a game he and his pals used to play in Samoa, in which they used to hit a coconuts with their bare fists.

``He did not have a real good freshman year,'' Lyon said. ``He didn't understand how to play the game at the intensity level that it's required to be played at college.

Lyon said he and his coaching staff told Sopoaga that he had to maintain his intensity level on each play and throughout each play.

``It's a learning process for him, the whole thing, including the move,'' Lyon said. ``He's getting better, but he's got a long way to go before he's going to be a legitimate Division I player.''

Lyon said Sopoaga arrived at COC as a raw talent but was nevertheless able to contribute, although to a lesser extent than he has this year with more polished technique.

``He didn't have technique when he got here, but when you have guys that size at this level, you can overcome a lot of mistakes,'' Lyon said.

Lyon said the biggest area of improvement in his game is his ability to play hard on every down, noting that his ``intensity level from snap to finish has improved tremendously.''

Given his size and strength, Sopoaga could be a future NFL NFL
abbr.
National Football League

NFL (US) n abbr (= National Football League) → Fußball-Nationalliga
 prospect, but Lyon is concentrating on preparing him for the next step, which is reaching Division I.

Crucial to his aspirations in football, and in life, Lyon said, is his completion of an Associate of Arts Associate of arts and Associate of science are two-year undergraduate degrees offered by many community colleges or junior colleges in the United States. Such degrees transfer to four-year institutions which offer full bachelor of arts and bachelor of science degrees.  degree at COC.

``He's got to get his AA degree or he's going nowhere,'' Lyon said. ``We tell him he's got to compete in the classroom like he competes on the football field and he's doing that.''

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

Isaac Sopoaga leads by example and accomplishment as a JC All-American candidate at undefeated College of the Canyons.

Tom Mendoza/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 29, 2000
Words:817
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