Jefferson (Minn.) senior quarterback Moses Alipate will compete against anyone -- or anything, for that matter.
When Alipate was five, his parents bought him a pair of sneakers that lit up when he ran. Alipate was incredibly excited about the shoes, and his imagination kicked in once he put them on.
Alipate thought the sneakers looked fast and were thus a challenge to his speed. So, as crazy as it sounds, he thought he'd try to outrun his sneakers. With his parents watching, Alipate took off in his front yard and kept glancing down at his feet when he was running -- until he ran face first into a tree.
"We asked him what was the matter and he said his shoes were too fast," says his father, Tuineau.
Another time when he was watching the X Games, Alipate believed he could perform better tricks than some of the BMX riders. So he went outside and attempted some stunts on his own bike. The result was a busted lip.
As Alipate has grown older, he's decided to stick with more tangible contests -- or at least ones that don't leave him with a face full of branches. But the competitive drive has remained.
That drive, however, was put to the ultimate test during Alipate's sophomore and junior seasons as the Jaguars went a combined 2-16, including an 0-9 campaign in 2006. They were seasons that could've broken the competitive spirit of someone like Alipate, who's rated the nation's No. 9 quarterback in the ESPNU 150. But instead, all of the losing has just fueled his fire that much more.
"You just have to give it all you have and walk away knowing you gave it your best," says Alipate.
While Alipate's best hasn't been good enough to get the Jaguars over the hump the past two seasons, it's not for a lack of trying. No matter if his team is 0-9 or 9-0, Alipate will give everything for his squad and has earned the respect of the coaching staff and his teammates.
"He puts things in perspective," says Alipate's brother, Marcus, who's a sophomore wide receiver for the Jaguars. "Yeah, we've had some tough seasons, but he still wants to win through all that. It makes people want to work harder and get better."
Leading a team that's 9-0 is one thing. But there's something to be said for a player who kept his team going amid a winless campaign as a sophomore and gave the Jaguars reason to celebrate during a win over Apple Valley last season.
The Jaguars trailed, 20-19, late in the fourth quarter and were staring at a make-or-break fourth-and-13 situation. Alipate took the snap, avoided the oncoming rush by shaking off two defenders and launched the game-winning 51-yard touchdown pass as Jefferson prevailed, 25-20.
"The coaching staff kind of looked at each other and said, 'Wow,'" recalls Jefferson head coach Jon Leverenz, who's in his eighth year at the helm.
Alipate completed 7 of 15 passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns that day. More importantly, he ended the Jaguars' 12-game losing streak, which had started at the end of the 2005 season with a 31-6 loss to Eden Prairie.
Alipate wasn't there for the Eden Prairie game because he was playing for Academy of Holy Angels as the starting outside linebacker and backup quarterback. But Alipate transferred to Jefferson after his freshman year so he could go to school with the kids he grew up with.
At his first practice with Jefferson, Alipate wowed Leverenz by tossing a 60-yard spiral during warmups. It was even more impressive considering Alipate didn't start playing quarterback until the eighth grade or organized football until the seventh.
Before then, Alipate concentrated on basketball and baseball. Though his father was a star linebacker at Washington State and played in the NFL, including with the Minnesota Vikings, Alipate never felt pressured to put on the pads.
Alipate has since given up baseball but is still a standout in hoops. He averaged 14.5 points per game as a junior and is going to try to play both sports at Minnesota, where he's committed.
While playing for the Jefferson basketball team, Alipate learned how to bring intensity to everything he did from All-American center Cole Aldrich, who's now a sophomore at Kansas and helped lead the Jayhawks to a national title last year.
"I saw the way that he worked and the results he was getting," says Alipate. "He didn't really say anything. He kept everything loose, but he kept up the intensity."
Alipate has since transferred that passion to the gridiron, win or lose. And it's in football where his future lies. At 6-foot-6 and 225 pounds, Alipate has tremendous size for a pocket passer, but he also has the agility to make plays outside the pocket. And with his strength (he deadlifted a school-record 585 pounds), he's a load to handle in the open field.
"He's a big, powerful kid," says Leverenz, who was an All-Big Ten linebacker at Minnesota. "I feel sorry for the cornerbacks who have to tackle him. He'll run you over. He loves contact and he's built for it.
"He's got the whole package."
Alipate hopes to unveil all his talents in his final high school season. But more importantly, he wants to deliver a winning year to the Jaguars.
"Now we have a mentality that we want to win," says Alipate, who was selected to play in the 2009 Under Armour All-America High School Football Game. "If they're going to train, we're going to train harder. We don't want to say 'what if' anymore.
"It's put up or shut up time."
Jon Mahoney covers high school sports for ESPN RISE.