Moanalua senior Natasha Paleafei made sure her hair was under her helmet so as to not give her away.
But that effort to blend in isn’t going work any more. Her cover is blown.
Paleafei is the starting right guard for No. 8 Moanalua, and the fact that she’s a girl is the only thing that is not quite blending. Ability-wise, she is right there on par with her offensive linemates, according to Na Menehune coach Savaii Eselu.
Paleafei, a transfer from Farrington, said she played her whole freshman season of JV football, but did not play as a sophomore or junior.
“She had played for me before in Big Boyz football, for the Rock Solid Crushers (of Kalihi),” Eselu said. “This season, it got to the point where our O-line was hurting badly. We only had five and she was one of the five. Her number was called and she stepped right in like the boys and got the job done. The word on the street is women are smarter than men. They seem to catch on a lot faster than the boys.”
Eselu said that Paleafei is the sister of Moanalua defensive lineman Joshua Paleafei and the cousin of Na Menehune receiver CJ Paleafei, who transferred in from Kapolei. In addition, another brother, Christian Paleafei, is a center on the Moanalua JV team.
Natasha Paleafei has been a starter for the last three games.
“In terms of her play, she attacks the competition with her physicality and doesn’t shun away from it,” Eselu said. “At first, teams don’t realize she’s a girl until later in the game. When they realize she’s a girl, they start attacking her and stunting on her. But it doesn’t faze her at all. We have back-up plans to counter that. So far, she’s one of the guys. When she was in Big Boyz, she was the big talk there in (Jr. Prep Sports). Everybody knew about her.”
Paleafei, who is 5-foot-5 and 170 pounds, also wrestles. She finished sixth in the 184-pound class at states last season for the Governors and won the 168-pound OIA JV championship as a freshman.
“I wanted to come back and play the sport that I really love,” she said. “It had been too long. I wanted to end my high school years with a bang.
“The boys on varsity are bigger and stronger (than what she saw at the JV level), but I just gotta do what I gotta do to protect the quarterback. When linebackers blitz, I love picking them up and pancaking them. I did it in the Damien game.
“They (opponents) never thought I was a girl because I keep my hair inside,” she said. “Then later, it’s like, ‘Oh my God, that’s a girl.’ They’re shocked. They never really think girls will play a hard position. Usually girls are kickers.”
Na Menehune are off to a 6-0 start. Their final two regular-season games are against Waipahu on Friday at Aloha Stadium and at home against Nanakuli on Oct. 13.
The OIA Division I playoffs follow.
“I think we’re going to go far,” Paleafei said. “We’ve come a long way to where we’re at now. It’s truly a blessing. I never thought we would come this far. If we keep trusting the process, we can continue to go far and win that state title.”