OCEANSIDE As a sophomore starter on the Oceanside High football team in 2010, Tofi Paopao was a Band-Aid.
With no immediate heir to quarterback Quentis Clark, who led the Pirates to a 14-0 season as a senior, Paopao was asked not to hurt the team until heralded transfer Ryan Lamb was eligible to play and freshman Connor Wynn was mature enough to take over.
Paopao, however, would have none of it.
After a sophomore season in which Paopao completed 139 of 232 passes for 2,218 yards, leading the Pirates to an 11-3 finish, Paopao, Lamb and Oceanside coach John Carroll had a meeting.
“Coach Carroll said the quarterback position was wide open,” Paopao said. “He said he hadn’t made a decision, and that Lamb and I were going to battle it out to see who would start.”
Paopao won the competition, Lamb moved to tight and the Wynn family moved to San Marcos.
And it has worked out well for everyone.
Lamb. who suffered through a number of injuries at Ocean-side, was the starting quarterback at Palomar College this season.
Wynn, a junior, is in his second season as the starting quarterback at Mission Hills and has the Grizzlies in the San Diego Section Division I championship game.
And Paopao hasn’t missed a beat.
The Pirates were 9-3-1 under his direction last season and are 11-1 this season and will play Poway on Saturday for the section Division II title.
“Experience is everything,” the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Paopao said. “I’ve grown tremendously since that sophomore year.
“I’ve learned how to read defenses. I’m quicker on my feet. And I’ve become a leader on and off the field.”
Paopao has completed 142 of 242 passes this season for 2,395 yards. He has thrown 22 touchdown passes and just five interceptions and is the choice for North County Offensive Player of the Year.
“There are a lot of really good players in North County, so this is a really nice honor,” Carroll said.
“Nobody gave Tofi his position. He has earned it.
“He beat some awfully good players for his spot, and he has embraced the position. He’s our physical and emotional leader.”
In three seasons as a starter Paopao has completed 425 of 728 passes, a career completion percentage of .584. He has 6,359 yards, placing him ninth among quarterbacks listed in the section record book.
“This has been a lot of fun,” said Paopao. “I understand my role.
“I’m the senior quarterback, a three-year starter, and the guys look to me.”
Determined not to let the team down, Paopao puts in the time that it takes to win games.
“I do a lot of film study,” he said. “I take a lot of reps in practice.
“I prepare like crazy because that’s what we do at Oceanside. I’ve been through this championship hunt, so I know what it takes.
“I want to close out my career as a winner.”