Beastie and Bubba haven’t played together since they were sixth-graders.
Now the heart and soul of the College of San Mateo Bulldogs’ defense, freshman T.C. “Beastie” Lavulo and sophomore Laipeli “Bubba” Palu look like they haven’t missed a beat.
The two linebackers were so synced up for Saturday, it seemed as though they were brothers. The result? Tim Tulloch’s first win as CSM’s new head coach in a 42-0 triumph over College of the Siskiyous in the non-conference season opener at Bulldog Stadium.
“The communication and the chess are smooth,” Tulloch said. “The linebacker corps is really the quarterbacks of the defense … and they did a nice job with it Saturday.”
The reason Lavulo and Palu have such a brotherly connection is because they practically are brothers. Technically, they are cousins — who essentially grew up as brothers — living under the same room in a Burlingame household shared with their grandparents, two sets of parents, along with Lavulo’s two brothers and Palu’s four siblings.
“That family is just a great football family,” Tulloch said. “The Palu and the Lavulo family, they’re like Bulldog royalty. They’ve been a big part of our program’s forever.”
Both Palu’s brother Benji (now at recruiter at Cal) and Lavulo’s brother David (who plays at Humboldt State with Palu’s other brother Manase) were great players at CSM. And Palu and Lavulo look as though they’re each set to follow a path of transferring to four-year schools.
According to first-year defensive coordinator Hansen Sekona, both are Division I prospects — an easy fit for Palu at 6-1, 225 pounds. Lavulo, at 5-11, 245 faces more of a challenge in impressing DI scouts. Sekona said Lavulo’s play, not his stature, should have the final say.
“With T.C., a lot of those guys overlook him because of his size,” Sekona said. “But you just have to look at the films. … He plays 6-3.”
The two haven’t played since their Peninsula Pop Warner days with the West Bay Rams in grade school, after which they landed at two different high schools. Palu graduated from Burlingame in 2016, and Lavulo from Serra in 2017.
“Playing with each other for the first time since Pop Warner, our family was so happy to see that,” Palu said.
And oh how they dominated. Palu totaled a team-high seven tackles. Lavulo added five. While the CSM offense quickly grinded down Siskiyous’ defense to all but record two 100-yard rushing performances — sophomore Cameron Taylor carried 14 times for 104 yards and a touchdown, while sophomore Rahsaan Fontenette carried 12 times for 98 yards — the defense was on point from the get-go.
The Bulldogs were better 502-161 in total yards, including just 68 total rushing yards for Siskiyous.
“I thought we did well,” Lavulo said. “Coach prepared us all well. We came in and saw what we expected to come.”
With the Bulldogs scoring 42 points, it might seem as though they scored six touchdowns and called it a day. It wasn’t nearly that easy though.
CSM got into the end zone three times, including a 61-yard pass from Matt Adamkiewicz to freshman Connell Russell midway through the second quarter; a 1-yard run by Taylor two minutes later; and a 9-yard pass from Adamkiewicz to sophomore Rajae Johnson to start the fourth quarter.
It was the foot of Cesar Silva that provided the steadiest stream of scoring though, as the sophomore place kicker booted four field goals of 44, 26, 32 and 42 yards. CSM also added a first-quarter safety when Siskiyous sent a punt snap flying out of the back of the end zone.
Adamkiewicz was a pleasant surprise for CSM, as the transfer sophomore was 13-of-19 passing for 186 yards and two touchdowns. His 61-yard connection with Russell was into tight man coverage with Adamkiewicz timing a perfect pass to the apex of Russell’s jump 20 yards past the line of scrimmage. As the defender fell to the turf, Russell sprinted up the CSM sideline for the team’s first TD of the season.
Sophomore QB Kamalii Akina took the start but departed midway through the first quarter after two series, and a 3-for-4, 30-yard passing day.
“You never know when you’re going to get your chance,” Tulloch said. “[Adamkiewicz] got pushed right to the front at the end of the second quarter and did a great job with it.”