He’s big, fast, physical, and he plays on both sides of the ball. Manoa Pikula is a 6-foot-1-inch, 230-pound athlete that has started for the Miner defense since he was a sophomore. Now a junior, the interior wrecking ball for Bingham holds a scholarship offer from BYU and is excited about how the Cougars are playing. In fact, he and his Bingham teammates were on had to watch the Cougars defeat the Sooners in Cowboys Stadium.
“We went to the game and there was a little section with our team cheering for BYU,” said Pikula. “There was a lot more Oklahoma fans there but we had our little section and BYU pulled through. They just kept playing their game and never gave up. Nobody gave them a chance. Not ESPN or anyone gave BYU a chance to win that game, but they didn’t let anything or anyone stop them. It really inspired me.”
“I thought BYU beating Oklahoma was a great win,” said 6-foot-6-inch, 270-pound American Fork lineman Ryker Mathews. “They battled hard and went in there and did what they needed to do. I mean, they didn’t let the fact that Oklahoma was a great team get to them. I thought it was awesome how BYU came right at them and smashed them in the mouth.”
As a defensive-minded player, Pikula was impressed with how physical the Cougars were against the Sooners. The Sooners came out with a run-first mentality in smash-mouth form, but quickly learned that BYU’s defense was plenty physical.
“A lot of people felt BYU was going to be intimidated by Oklahoma and just lay down for them because Oklahoma was rated so high,” said Pikula. “It was great to see BYU come out and play even harder and hustle around even harder as a defense. It really inspired me to want to be that much better. It was great just watching them play the way they did.”
BYU’s defense also really stuck to Mathews.
“The BYU defense really impressed me,” said Mathews. “Oklahoma was a team that average around 50 points a game last year, but BYU held them to 13 points. I just thought that was awesome how they did that.”
The big victory for the Cougars left an impression on Mathews.
“I’m looking for a team that fights back,” said Mathews. “I want to be a part of a team that has pride and will fight no matter what. That’s why it was amazing to see what BYU did against Oklahoma. I loved that and it was amazing. As far as the schooling aspect goes, I want to get a great education.”
This year Mathews simply wants to focus on his junior year, and doesn’t want to get caught up too much in recruiting.
“I’m trying not to think about it a lot right now and just want to focus on my junior season,” said Mathews. “I’m still pretty young and try not to think too much about it. It’s hard at times but I’m trying my best.”
But that effort can be tough with him knowing he has options at the next level and that those options are from local teams that are nationally ranked. Mathews has two scholarship offers at the current moment, one from BYU and one from Utah. Although his parents favor BYU, he’s keeping a neutral position on where his heart leans.
“I really cheer for both teams,” Mathews said. “Both my parents like BYU, but I don’t really have a favorite right now. Growing up I’ve always like the Utah teams but was never really a fan. I never really hated either one or liked one more than the other. I just like watching football and playing it and never really had a favorite growing up.”
Mathews plays on both the offensive and defensive lines for his American Fork team.
“I know BYU wants me strictly as an offensive lineman, and Utah wants me, I think, kind of for both,” said Mathews. “They said mainly for offensive line, but they like my athleticism I guess.”
So which does Mathews prefer?
“I like playing on the offensive line more,” Mathews said. “I take pride in playing on it. I like being aggressive and taking pride as an offensive lineman.”
At BYU Mathews could potentially be blocking for the top high school quarterback for the class of 2010 in Jake Heaps. Mathews has established a good relationship with Heaps and thinks he’s not only a great player but also a great person.
“He’s such a great kid,” said Mathews about Heaps. “I met him at a BYU scrimmage and we were on the sidelines talking after the scrimmage and stuff. This was about a month ago I think. I know him pretty well and he actually gave me some advice on how to handle the pressures of the recruiting process. He’s such a great guy and I love him to death.”
As for when he’ll commit to a school, Mathews said that won’t happen until a while from now.
“I’m going to wait until the summer before my senior year to commit to a school,” said Mathews. “Right now I’m just going to focus on my junior year and just see where it takes me. I know Coach Doman is trying as hard as he can and he’s a great guy and coach. He tries really hard and writes me letters. When he could he was the first one to write me a letter, and he’s just a great guy and always tells me he wants me there at BYU.”
As for Pikula, he feels he needs to give Coach Doman a call soon for a personal meeting.
“In terms of recruiting, I need to try and talk to Coach Doman,” Pikula said. “I know he’s really busy getting ready for the big games, but I’m going to try and catch him this week and have a meeting with Coach Doman.”
BYU is Pikula’s top college for various reasons, but particularly because of what Coach Mendenhall’s program stands for.
“I just love the program and the church aspect of BYU. I love how they put everything together and how important things are prioritized. Football isn’t first, but faith and family and academics are. When football is done basically you have nothing, but at BYU you put faith, family and academics first and those things will always be with you.”
Currently, BYU is ranked seventh in the country after beating Oklahoma and Tulane. The fact that football isn’t the primary emphasis of Coach Mendenhall’s program, yet it has beaten top programs and is ranked within the top 10 nationally, is impressive.
“It’s amazing and still is really hard to believe,” said Pikula. “No one really understands that and is giving them credit for that. I give them so much credit for that. A lot of people doubted Bronco but he’s proved them all wrong.”
With that being said, BYU fans could hear in about a week that Bingham linebacker Manoa Pikula will commit to the Cougars of BYU.
“BYU is top of my list,” Pikula said. “I just like their program and have always been a BYU fan. I’m just waiting for a good time to commit. I think I’ll do that pretty soon probably in about a week.”
This Saturday BYU will host Florida State in the Cougars’ home opener. Pikula feels the Cougars will come out victorious.
“Oh, BYU all the way,” Pikula said. “I think they’ll be able to win this one at home.”
Mathews meanwhile will also be following BYU this season.
“I plan on attending some of the BYU games this year,” said Mathews. “I plan on going to the Florida State game this weekend. I’m going to go to that one. I hope they win. I know they’ll win actually. They’ll win.”