This fine Classic needs a draft

by Paul Honda on December 1, 2012

Here’s the boxscore from Friday night’s HUB Goodwill Senior Classic. (It’s not in the print edition.)

At Kunuiakea Stadium

East 0 6 6 8 — 20

West 0 7 7 7 — 21

E—Abraham Silva 94 run (run failed)

W—Daicorri Briscoe 75 pass from Makoa Camanse-Stevens (Cayman Conley kick)

W—Jarin Morikawa 6 run (Conley kick)

E—Keoni Tom-Millare 85 pass from Tyler Taumua (pass failed)

W—Keoni Piceno 4 pass from Morikawa (Conley kick)

E—Tanner Nishioka 3 pass from Reece Foy (Nishioka pass from Foy)

RUSHING—West: Piceno 2-8, Ryan Tuiasoa 3-17, Jacob Kukahiko 4-4, Camanse-Stevens 6-21, Paul-Andrew Rhoden 3-(-7), Morikawa 4-10, Kyle Sato 5-9, Dustin Munar 1-13, Shawn DeSantos 1-(-1), Isaac Savaiinaea 1-5, team 1-(-3). East: Aofaga Wily 10-16, Silva 4-101, Kai Gonda 2-(-1), Foy 4-0, Taumua 4-9, Gavin Kim 1-7.

PASSING—West: Piceno 2-3-0-51, Morikawa 11-21-1-131, Camanse-Stevens 7-10-0-158. East: Tom-Millare 0-1-0-0, Foy 11-25-2-90, Kahaku Iaea 1-5-1-5, Taumua 1-1-0-85.

RECEIVING—West: Ali‘i Perina 4-76, Piceno 4-48, Brandon Felisi 1-13, Briscoe 2-82, Tuiasoa 1-7, Austin Gerard 3-46, Camanse-Stevens 1-30, Keanu Chee 1-3, Kukahiko 2-27, Kennedy Tulimaseali‘i 1-8. East: Gonda 1-(-7), Nishioka 8-77, Francis Evangelia 1-5, Taumua 1-0, Kui Williams 1-20, Tom-Millare 1-85.

On one hand, I enjoyed seeing so many of this year’s most talented and skilled players get together for one last hurrah to close the the 2012 season. On the other, I know there’s no way any fan can get his or her fill of plays from anyone on the field. Both coaches, Randall Okimoto of the East and David Stant of the West, clearly tried to get as many plays for as many players as possible.

In the end, neither coach was willing to concede defeat, which is why we saw Reece Foy throw 21 passes and a touchdown. We also saw an efficient (as usual) Makoa Camanse-Stevens (7-for-10, 158 yards, one TD). But what was cunning and productive was the two completions by Keoni Piceno after handoffs on the fly sweep. I saw a lot of games, as usual, during the fall. Not a single team ran this play. Maybe they just didn’t have wideouts with an arm like Piceno’s, I know, I know.

But I wish we’d see more innovation and creativity from teams during the season, not just in an all-star exhibition.

Piceno was selected the West’s most outstanding offensive player, but that honor easily could’ve gone to Ali‘i Pedrina (four catches, 76 yards), who had the play of the game (my opinion) with the catch and lateral on the 75-yard hook-and-ladder play just before the half. Piceno, Kamehameha teammate Camanse-Stevens and Pearl City’s Daicorri Briscoe will forever be linked by this amazing play just before halftime. It wasn’t amazing because it was tricky. It was amazing because they had practiced it just once and it was a bust against the West defense during the week.

The defense limited the sturdy East to just one big rushing play, a 94-yard touchdown run by Abraham “Amo” Silva. Part of the West defense’s success was due to a superb performance by the front seven, which included Punahou linebacker Isaac Savaiinaea. But another key factor was a relative mismatch of Kahuku’s Aofaga Wily and the Farrington offensive line. With the left side filled by Governors for many offensive plays, the West ran what were basically Farrington running plays. Straight-ahead blocking. All power.

Wily is used to mobile linemen at Kahuku, guys who can execute blast, stretch and toss sweep plays. He barely had running room all night, stonewalled in the backfield often, and finished with 16 yards on 10 carries. It wasn’t better for the rest of the backfield aside from Silva. In all, the East rushed 25 times for 129 yards. But the actual play to play momentum felt completely different. Take away the Silva touchdown run and the East had 35 yards on 24 carries. It was that kind of a night.

To the East’s credit, they came out with wide sets and threw the ball early. By night’s end, they had more pass attempts (32) than rushes (25). But it just wasn’t consistent enough. Why? The answer is fairly simple.

Saint Louis didn’t show up. The Crusaders had a senior retreat for the weekend, so elite pass catchers like Jeremy Tabuyo weren’t available. Think about it. Foy went to his teammate, Nishioka, 15 times as a target. He had no chemistry with other talented teammates like Kai Gonda (a running back who didn’t run many routes for Kaiser), tight end Tyler Liana, wideout Francis Evangelia or any other pass catcher on the West roster.

The receivers were all decent, including tight end Kui Williams. But with Tabuyo on one side and Nishioka on the other, a lot would have opened up for Foy downfield.

Still, it was an entertaining game, and the fact that it was close all the way made it more watchable. Picks by Kaeo Kanoa (two) and Amu Poe were timely. Tulimaseali‘i and Mene Perese had one sack apiece. The West’s depth on the defensive side of the ball was very apparent this time.

Is it fair that the East-side private-school programs were Pac-Five (D-II) and ‘Iolani (D-II) while Saint Louis didn’t show, and that Kamehameha and Punahou were part of the West? Really, it’s not balanced.

I’ve written before that a pre-game draft would be far, far more enjoyable and useful than the current setup. Few fans give a darn about a West-East competition. They want great football, if possible. A draft one or two weeks before the game would be insanely interesting. It would also eliminate much of the brouhaha coming from fans who claim that coaches partake in bias and favoritism when the teams are “selected.”

In a draft, seeing the other coach make astute picks — “pedigree” of any program would be meaningless — would only ramp up the drive to select elite players, period.

But, before I forget, here are some of the East defensive players who were superb. Richard Parham and Liana came up with fumble recoveries. Chansen Exzabe had a spectacular, diving pick on a long pass by Morikawa. Renno Sagapolu and Johnny Tapusoa had one sack each.

For more on the game, see the story in Saturday’s Star-Advertiser.

Paul Honda, Star-Advertiser 

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