It’s no surprise that Luring Paialii has been featured on Valencia’s defense this season. He is third on the team in tackles with six. He’s recorded five tackles for a loss, one sack and forced a fumble.
It’s his prowess on the offensive side of the ball however that was unexpected, but has been vital to Valencia’s success so far this year.
Paialii leads the Vikings in carries (50), rushing yards (234) and touchdowns (8) even after missing a game due to an ankle injury.
A knee injury to starting running back Jayvaun Wilson thrust Paialii into an expanded offensive role, but no one was expecting the senior running back and linebacker to be utilized so much in the backfield, not even Paialii himself.
“I was expecting to play more running back because of Jayvaun’s injury, so I knew that I would have to help out on offense,” Paialii said. “But I didn’t know that I would be doing it as much as I have been.”
Paialii, who has received offers from Hawaii, Fresno State and Idaho State, has demonstrated his ability as a downhill runner, using his power to his advantage on goal line situations.
He scored all three of Valencia’s touchdowns last week against Calabasas, two of which came on 1-yard plunges near the end zone.
“He is really effective in short-yardage situations,” Valencia head coach Larry Muir said. “He adds a physicality on both sides of the ball. He’s so physical, he’s so violent when the ball is in his hands. You love the energy and passion he brings to the offensive side.”
Last week against Calabasas, Valencia decided to go for the win in overtime after Paialii scored his third touchdown of the game. The Vikings utilized Paialii one more time on the two-point conversion, but the referees signaled that he was short.
College of the Canyons linebacker and Valencia alumnus Tariq Speights spoke to Paialii after the game and reminded him to keep his head up and not let the result of the game deter him from his end goal.
“He played a hell of a game,” Speights said. “My exact words were, ‘this is a marathon and not a sprint. This is just one step and there are going to be bad parts in a marathon, but it’s about the full journey.’”
The Vikings now move into Foothill League play on Friday, facing Canyon on the road.
Muir thinks that junior running back Jake Santos, who missed the last two games, should be available to play if he has no setbacks in practice. Nick Pham, who has 187 yards on 40 carries, is also expected to keep getting the ball. Aidan Baptiste has also seen more action in the last two games as Valencia rotates its backfield.
Even with the bevy of talent at the running back position, Paialii will remain a critical part in the Vikings’ offense.
“We’ve been using a committee all year and it’s worked for us,” Muir said. “We don’t want to tire [Paialii] out too much because he does so many things for us on the defensive side of the ball as well. He runs the goal line set for us and does a great job with that. His power and speed, he runs tough.”
Paialii believes that his downhill running ability, paired with Pham’s natural instincts and Baptiste’s speed will be a major force as league play unfolds.
“Nick has very good vision. Aidan is very explosive off the ball,” Paialii said. “All the way around we try to do what we can on the field to progress and to get better and better each week.”