Down the freeway at Moanalua, the Kahuku Red Raiders happy to get some contact against another team for the first time this summer.
New coach Lee Leslie made his debut, far from happy about the start of the afternoon — only one of the two scheduled buses showed up at Kahuku. Players split up and eventually made it to Moanalua late. The scrimmage, which began hot with a touchdown by each team’s offense, finally began around 5:30 p.m.
That was a blessing in disguise for me since I was informed the scrimmage would start at 6 p.m., so I got lucky. Kahuku showed some of its new packages, include a jumbo deal that features a slew of 270-pound bulldozers like Pena Fitisemanu. The spread formation, with its fake handoff to the slot (in pre-snap motion) is what I think might put defenses in total freeze mode. It’s tough enough to stop Kahuku’s smashmouth attack with seven or eight of your best run-stoppers in the box.
Running back Kesi Ah-Hoy (6-1, 192) scored twice for the Red Raiders on breakaway plays. Earlier in the day, Leslie had plenty to say about Ah-Hoy.
“He’s a big-time up and comer. He’s got unbelievable cuts. (Soli) Afalava‘s the race horse. Ah-Hoy’s got a little bit of Barry Sanders with a taller frame,” he said.
But when the Red Raiders decide to line up with their spread guys, it’s almost unfair, at least that’s how it looks after just one scrimmage. Tuli Wily-Matagi was, as was the case last year, a game manager. Leslie is aiming to make the 6-foot-3, 235-pound senior a weapon on the move. He missed on some open receivers out of play action, but with more reps and some mechanical sharpening, Wily-Matagi is probably going to be a nightmare out there in space.
Really, it’s going to be a challenge for nickel backs to bring him down one on one, and there aren’t a lot of outside ‘backers who will consistently make the right read while Afalava or Ah-Hoy execute a fake the other way. And when Wily-Matagi starts connecting on those play-action rollouts — Chance Maghanoy getting solo coverage often — Big Red might have something dynamic going on.
Moanalua is rebuilding after losing a ton of talent to graduation. The pass-heavy offense has many of the same looks, but it was tough to gauge Na Menehune’s progress against a faster, physical Kahuku defense. They made their share of pass plays, but there was little success running the ball.
Life after Arnold Martinez, who stepped down after last season, wasn’t going to be easy. It will be tested heavily in the revamped OIA divisional format, where the strength of the West will be unleashed against the East’s dwindling programs.