When siblings play a sport together, a rivalry may develop, but such is not the case for the Leota-Hunkin brothers of Alta High football.
The three brothers continuously support each other on and off the football field, where senior Traivaugn starts at safety, junior Davian at defensive end and sophomore Dante Kalil at defensive tackle. The brothers came to Alta in 2014. The two older siblings first played football at Riverton High, but moved into the Sandy area.
“Alta gave us a chance,” Dante Kalil said.
The three boys grew up playing football with their family, just for fun. They decided to play in a competitive league in Davian’s age group when they were nearing the end of elementary school.
“I started pretty late,” Traivaugn said. “You could say I was scared.”
Traivaugn started playing football at age 12, but he and his brother had the help and support from each other and their father to learn and progress despite his late entrance into the sport.
“Everything we know is from our dad,” Davian said.
The Leota-Hunkin brothers’ biggest football influence has been their father, who played quarterback at the University of Michigan. Each has hopes of playing college football, however there are no current offers for the boys.
“All three of them have college potential,” said Coach Alema Te’o. “They have the grades and the talent.”
Coach Te’o sees similarities between these three young men, but he also takes note of the individual characteristics that make each brother special Traivaugn is a 5-foot-10, 185-pound defensive back who finished the 2015 season with 114 tackles and two interceptions, including a 59-yard pick-6 against Orem.
“He’s a real quiet player, but speaks loud with his shoulder pads,” Te’o said. “Trai is very business-like and soft spoken, but he gets it done.”
Te’o said that all three of the brothers are major contributors on the team and without them, the team is weaker. Unfortunately, the team was without Davian for a few games this season because of an ACL tear, but no surgery was required. Davian, who is a 6-2, 210-pound defensive end, had 30 tackles and 5.5 sacks while playing in just seven of the Hawks’ 11 contests. “Davian is a workhorse,” Te’o said. “He plays with a lot of emotion. There’s no quit in him.” According to Coach Te’o, the injury slowed Davian down and the junior tweaked it again later in the year during a big game at Provo High School. His brothers sensed something was missing while he was away from the game.
“We’re not complete without him,” Dante Kalil said.
The brothers are very family oriented and don’t compete with each other except in the weight room when they try to motivate one another. Since they all play defense together, they think of the game as them versus everybody else, however Dante Kalil also plays on the offensive line.
At 6-foot, 210 pounds, Dante Kalil finished the year with 55 tackles. His season high came in a game against Spanish Fork when he recorded 14 and he had nine in Alta’s final game of the season, playoff game against East.
“[Dante] Kalil is a high energy player for us,” Te’o said. “He goes 100 miles per hour.”
In order to get themselves recruited, the boys are working hard at putting their film together, especially the oldest, Traivaugn who averages 6.2 tackles per game and hopes to get an offer before leaving on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sometime after high school graduation.
As members of the LDS church, the lives of the Leota-Hunkins are very driven by their faith. Every Thursday before game day, the boys fast before going to the temple the next morning on game day before school and praying together right before the game starts.
“I commend them for doing that,” Te’o said. “Every kid has a different way to prepare mentally. It helps them become stronger players.” Te’o has high expectations for the Leota-Hunkin brothers, who continue to be leaders on and off the field. Their play allows the brothers to make a statement and showcase their talent.
Alta football was fired up coming into their first round of the 2015 UHSAA State Football Championship game against Kearns on October 30th. They had just come off of a triumphant win over their arch-rival, Corner Canyon the week before. Alta and Kearns both had touchdowns in the first quarter to tie up the score at 7-7, but Kearns wasn’t looking for a close game and racked up 13 points in the second quarter, bringing the score to 20-14 at halftime. Both teams came out their locker rooms ready to play but neither team scored in the 3rd quarter. The score ended up being 23-14 late in the 4th quarter after Kearns scored a field goal which the they thought would be the icing on the cake for this win. Alta wasn’t ready for a loss though, they pulled off a late rally, putting up 17 points on the board through 2 touchdowns and a field goal. The key to defeating Kearns was shutting out their yard by yard run game, led by #27 Sophomore running back, Sese Felilia. The next step was tiring out their defense, which turned out to be entirely effective, Josh Davis amassed 182 rushing yards with 2 touchdowns. Congratulations to #35 Mitch Fisher (special teams), #15 Braxton Kerr, and #13 Mitch Medina for being selected for MaxPreps’ Players of the Game. The final score was 31-23, Alta now moves on to play the East Leopards in the quarterfinals on Friday, November 6th. Be sure to ride the spirit bus and go out to support our football team at East High School. Go Hawks!!
Alta Football’s, Davian Leota-Hunkin has been playing with a partial torn ACL since the third game of the season against Hillcrest. The defensive end starter was out for only three weeks, but the injury was still a problem even though it did not require surgery. “The injury has slowed him down,” said Coach Alema Te’o. “It looks as if he has tweaked it again against Provo.” After the game against Provo on October 9, 2015, Te’o tried to use Leota-Hunkin less so that Davian would have some more time to recover and be ready for the playoffs. The team misses Leota-Hunkin on the field, especially his brothers on the team who say that they are not complete without him, but unfortunately, Davian has reinjured his knee while playing in the first round of state against Kearns High School and the Hawks will have to finish the season with Leota-Hunkin. “Coach and my dad want me to get the surgery, but I don’t really want to,” said Leota-Hunkin. “We’ll see if I can get by without it, but I’m for sure out for the season.” Leota-Hunkin hopes to make a full recovery by next season so he has a shot for getting recruiting and getting a scholarship to play football at the college level.
Many are surprised at the contrast in records between Alta’s present and prior varsity football teams, from a three-win team last year, to a three-loss team this year. This change could be attributed to anew coaching staff, a matured team, and the drop to 4A athletic play this year. But after a confidence building season this year, and a tight win against Kearns High School last year, Alta may be headed to very challenging game against East High School this Saturday.
East High School, a team with an 8-2 record and number eight in the state may be the toughest game of the year. Only losing to the third-ranked team in the nation, Centennial, and a top five team out of Colorado, Valor Christian. Looking at their schedule, they have been very dominant in their eight wins against notables from around the state.
Our Hawks, with losses to Dixie, Provo and Timpview, have still shown talent with their 8-3 record. Including a win against rival Corner Canyon High School. But the student body is hoping to continue their playoff hopes after a winning their first match.
The matchup between East and Alta all goes down this Friday at East High School’s stadium, kickoff to be at 3:30 pm. All are encouraged to attend and show support in a tough battle between the two. The administration is even offering Alta students a ride on the spirit bus to downtown Salt Lake City, which should be packed with hawks. East is looking forward to hosting the game, with many expected attendees.