Nico Iamaleava slammed his helmet against the locker room door with a roar, the trip suddenly short by over 24 yards in a playoff loss.
Just half an hour later it had occurred to senior five-star quarterback Nico Iamaleava, who still had a slightly dejected smile on his face and posed for photos with stragglers loitering in the Chatsworth chill. His time at Warren High was up, the Bears had lost Friday night’s Division 2 playoff match to Sierra Canyon 22-21, a Tom Brady-esque late-game drive from Iamaleava wasn’t enough and a game-winning field goal , which came just a foot short.
“I went through it,” said Iamaleava, leaving the stadium an hour after the game. “My dad was right here – he just saw how emotional I was. But I’ve accepted it… it’s an uncomfortable feeling.”
Ever since committing himself in Tennessee in March — signing a name, image and likeness deal with a school support collective reportedly worth $8 million — Iamaleava has been a recruiter and promoter for the program and has had a huge platform with his pajamas reached social media. Carry appearances in 7v7 passing tournaments.
The deal has drawn attention whenever it entered a field — Malcolm Smith, a former USC linebacker and Super Bowl MVP with the Seattle Seahawks, was partially on the sidelines on Friday to see the boy with his own eyes — and drew in such prominent voices as college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit to weigh Iamaleava’s commitment.
But after a summer of back-and-forth where he switched to Long Beach Poly only to return to Warren, the headlines have calmed down with the 6-foot-6 blue chipper simply focusing on his senior year at prom . After a 9-1 season and 24 touchdown passes, this isn’t quite the ride into a volunteer orange sunset he envisioned.
“It hurts…this loss definitely gives me a little bit more feeling and sets me up for the season for Tennessee,” Iamaleava said. “I’ll just use it as fuel later.”
Throughout the first half, as Sierra Canyon gave Warren a 14-7 lead, the stands throbbed with derision as a stone-cold Iamaleava could do nothing against the Trailblazers defense.
“Put on your pajamas!” they yelled.
“Overrated!” they crowed.
Iamaleava and Warren started moving the football late in the first half, orchestrating a touchdown drive and completely silencing Trailblazer fans in the third quarter. With third-down chances stacked against him, he dug deep into his bag of tricks: turning away to dart at brother Madden, lasering a third-and-13 play to Jordan Ross and finding Ross back for a short touchdown and runs in a conversion to give Warren a 21-14 lead.
Just over a minute after Sierra Canyon took the lead, it appeared Iamaleava would pull another rabbit out of a hat, spin and deal, leading the Bears to the 19-yard line — only for a delay of the Game To repel a game-winning field goal, attempt five yards, falling short after time runs out.
After the frustration subsided, the bitter taste remained. So Tennessee fans, get ready.
“I’m ready to work, man,” Iamaleava said. “Can not Hardly Wait.”
https://www.latimes.com/sports/highschool/story/2022-11-05/tennessee-fans-get-ready-five-star-qb-recruit-nico-iamaleava After last prep game, QB Nico Iamaleava heading to Tennessee