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La Jolla’s Nawahine doing it all

Vikings star takes the hits at quarterback and doles them out at middle linebacker

Dave Ponsford has been coaching football at La Jolla High School since 1973, and never in his years can he remember taking the risk of allowing his starting quarterback to also play middle linebacker.

The thinking has always been that a quarterback is too valuable to risk injury by having him play defense, especially a position in which the player takes such a beating.

Ponsford has reconsidered that thought process this fall, though, and his unconventional thinking has paid off in the play of Henry Nawahine on both sides of the ball.

“He’s delivering the blows on defense, so there’s always a chance of getting dinged up,” Ponsford said. “But we’ve got another quarterback in Zac Zlatic, and they’re both pretty comparable, so we decided to give them both a chance, and it allows Henry a chance to catch a breather every once in a while.”

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Nawahine, a 6-foot 1-inch, 215-pound senior, has been playing full time at middle linebacker and splitting time equally with Zlatic, a junior, at quarterback.

Through three games, Nawhaine had completed eight of his 17 passes (47.1 percent) for 105 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. Zlatic had posted just slightly better numbers, completing 10 of 19 passes for 124 yards and two scores without being picked off.

Defensively, Nawahine has averaged about seven tackles per game.

While it’s a lot to ask of a player to play such a rare combination of positions, Nawahine seems to be taking it in stride.

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“I’ve actually played both positions since I was playing Pop Warner, so I guess I’m used to it,” Nawahine said. “I think I take more of a beating on the offensive side of the ball, because I’m the one being hit, as opposed to giving out the hits. I don’t really think about it during the game, but the next day, I definitely feel it.”

Nawahine said he likes being in control on offense, and on defense, he enjoys doling out hits. He said if he had to choose one position, it would be middle linebacker, and he hopes to play the position in college. He has looked at BYU and Utah.

“In my mind, he’s a defensive player,” Ponsford said. “He has a good arm and runs the ball well, but he really has a nose for the ball, and I could see him bulking up in college to play middle linebacker.”