Blazing a trail at Wash State

The Washington State football program’s love affair with American Samoa, as all longtime Cougars fans know, began four decades ago with a quarterback, Jack Thompson.

Recently, though, it’s been an almost exclusively defensive phenomenon.

That’s about to change.

Fred Mauigoa, a personable 315-pound sophomore who was co-valedictorian at his high school in the small Samoan village of ‘Ili’ili, will probably start at center when the Cougars open their season Sept. 2 at home against Montana State. In the past three years, nine Samoans (by birth or heritage) have started for the WSU defense, but Mauigoa will be the first during that time to start on offense.

And he’s fully aware of it.

“When they (Cougar coaches) recruited me, I wanted to be an offensive guy, because I felt more comfortable on offense, better at offensive techniques,” Mauigoa said Tuesday at Sacajawea Junior High in Lewiston, Idaho, where the Cougars staged their seventh preseason practice. “When I got here, I noticed there were a lot of Samoan guys on the defense, but there wasn’t really anybody on offense. I wanted to be the first.”

As the replacement for three-year starter Riley Sorenson, Mauigoa will be the least seasoned member of a highly regarded offensive line that includes Andre Dillard, Cody O’Connor, B.J. Salmonson and Cole Madison. But O-line coach Clay McGuire hardly seems worried.

“He’s a great kid, he works extremely hard and he’s got a lot of talent,” McGuire said. “If he continues to fine-tune everything, he’s got a chance to be a real good football player for us.”

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