Hawaii Prep World will be releasing early summer previews of all 29 Oahu varsity football teams in advance of the 2017 season that kicks off in early August.
SIXTH IN A SERIES
>> 2016 record and finish: 5-8 (3-4 OIA Red); beat Aiea 42-27 in the first round of the OIA D-I playoffs, lost 63-0 to Kahuku in the OIA D-I quarterfinals, lost 63-42 to Mililani in the OIA D-I third-place game, beat Hilo 26-25 in the first round of the D-I state tournament, lost 51-35 to Mililani in the D-I state semifinals
>> Number of returning starters: 5 offense, 6 defense
>> Number of returning seniors: 20
>> Number of starters lost to graduation: 11
>> Number of seniors lost to graduation: 10
>> Honolulu Star-Advertiser All-State selections lost to graduation: Safety Charles Moku Watson, first-team utility; quarterback Kaleoaloha Piceno, second-team utility; Kawai Phifer, third team receiver
>> Honolulu Star-Advertiser All-State selections returning: None
>> Among 2017 key offensive returnees: Konapiliahi Andres, Sr., QB; Bishop Victor, Sr., OL; Ethan Leui, Sr., OL; Kenoa Tilimwar, Sr., OL
>> Among 2017 key defensive returnees: DeShayne Stevens, Sr., LB; Donovan Ugalino, Sr., LB; Odin Mersberg, Sr., LB; Braxton Bishop, Sr., DL; Jerome Holliday, Sr., DB; Charles Vierra, Sr., DL
>> Mules with Division I FBS college offers: None
>> All-time state championships: 1 (2007, D-I)
>> All-time Prep Bowl (1973-1998) championships: 1 (1984)
>> All-time OIA championships: 4 (all D-I — 1940, 1974, 1984, 2007)
>> 2017 conference: OIA Red (D-I)
>> State tournament declaration: Division I-Open
Head coach MARK KURISU on the Mules’ outlook for 2017:
“Things have been going well. The kids are working hard, and they worked really hard during the third and fourth quarter building up their GPAs. As a team, we ended up with a 2.75 and that is really good.
“We’ve told the kids that they all need a 3.0 with no D’s or F’s. If they don’t have that, then it’s mandatory study hall for 45 minutes to an hour. Then it’s quickness, speed and agility practice for an hour or an hour and a half, and possibly night tutoring.
“Many got their grades up. If not, they are in the rookie group, which is basically for student-athletes new to the program, or who didn’t play ever at the JV or varsity level or transferred in. We put our veterans in there when they’re not able to maintain a good GPA. If they don’t have a solid GPA, we say it’s like ‘pulling a rookie move,’ an inexperienced move. If they can’t figure that out, they’re acting like a rookie.
“In this my first season back (Kurisu was also the head coach in 2011), I have to build upon what Nolan Tokuda created here. He created a solid foundation, and the key is we need to build upon it.
“I’m not asking a player to get a 3.0 because I want him to get a 3.0. If they do get it, there will be more opportunities. It allows them the opportunity to be a starter. If a position battle is even athletically, it will always go to the player with the higher GPA. I want them to understand their priorities. If a recruiter comes to talk, the first thing they ask about is grades. And even if football is not for them at a higher level, they’ll be able to get into the military or college and possibly even get a scholarship. If their GPA is not there yet, they can work up to it.
“Many kids out for the first time have already been programmed to be mediocre. It’s a culture shock for them. They never pushed themselves. Some feel it’s unattainable. The kids who decide to stick it out, it’s incredible to see what they can turn into. As coaches, we’re not just saying it. The coaches are in the study hall. The kids are not doing it by themselves. They’re supported. They can find help. They can accomplish great things when they push past mediocrity, if their heart is in the right place and they’ve got other people in their corner. There’s kids rolling in with 2.0’s and 2.7’s and it’s something they’ve never hit before.
“When we look back at our season last year, we had five (of eight) losses to two teams — two to Kahuku and three to Mililani. The other games we lost were to Punahou, Kapolei and Farrington. Those were losses we took to bigger teams, more experienced teams. We had to take our lumps. We were young with a bunch of kids we had to pull up and ask to compete with veterans who have played football for so long. That’s a lot to ask for younger kids — to play at that level. Our division is tough.
“It was a matter of grinding it out. We had some really good wins, one at Kailua. We played tough against Farrington, and we traveled to Hilo and beat the top seed in the Division I state tournament. For us, to be the best, we’ve got to play against the best. So we had to go through them. It helped build us mentally more than physically. We still need to compete at a high level more consistently, compete every play and not just wait for big plays to happen.
“Philosophically, we have something that we rolled out for the kids this year. It’s F3 (F to the third power). Faith, family and future. We’re talking about young adults, in school, in the community, with family, so when they make a decision, they’re making that decision not just for themselves but for their extended families. We try to get kids to learn character through the decisions they make. If something causes you to do something bad, what causes it? It can be exponential. We want them to think about how their choices affect them and how it affetcs those other people. Faith is religion if they have it, or faith in themselves, their friends, teammates and family. How is this choice going to honor others? Will my positive choice be serving or helping or leading?
“We want to be successful at Leilehua. That will never change. We want to bring people with us. Will our choices be inspiring to our siblings? Will the varsity choices make the JV players say, ‘Look at what they have?’ Or in the classroom. It’s about being able to step up in front of the class and look confident and be successful there, too.
“We want people to ask, ‘Why is Leilehua successful?’
“In today’s me-first generation, it’s so easy to just think for yourself. I want it. Nothing wrong with that. When it doesn’t work out, it’s the reset generation. I want to quit. I’m not going to class. That teacher is too tough. I want to switch classes.
“For Leilehua football, we want people to watch us play and be inspired. We want to compete at a high level and want people to say, ‘I love watching Leilehua football, man, because they inspire me.’
“And it doesn’t have to be just for Leilehua players in Wahiawa. You can get it in your own home town. You can stay home and get stuff done when you commit.
“And whey you commit, you’re honoring the past, all the coaches and players who came before.
“This year, on the right side of our helmets, we will have the standard ‘Mules’ script. On the left side, we’ll have the Mules script with an inlay of the American flag. This is not a political thing. It honors our military population, the ones who go and serve our nation. We’ve had lots of kids who have served their time and some who are still serving. When the military people watch us streaming live on OC 16, they’ll see that it is our way of saying, ‘We love you guys and honor you guys.’
“At HIADA (the athletic directors meeting last week), it sounded like there were some unexpected twists and turns in decisions made about football. The game itself is so beautiful and so wonderful and it changes lives. Kids play hard and beat on each other, but they’re going to learn to respect their opponents. That is the pure essence of what the sport is all about.”
2017 Leilehua football schedule
Subject to change. Click here for the latest schedule updates.
Thursday, July 27
>> Leilehua at Pearl City (scrimmage)
Saturday, Aug. 5
>> St. Francis at Leilehua (nonleague)
Friday, Aug. 11
>> Leilehua at Kahuku
Friday, Aug. 18
>> Leilehua at Mililani
Saturday, Sept. 2
>> Leilehua at Kapolei
Friday, Sept. 8
>> Leilehua at Castle
Friday, Sept. 15
>> Nanakuli at Leilehua
Saturday, Sept. 23
>> Kailua at Leilehua
Friday, Sept. 29
>> Farrington at Leilehua
2017 Leilehua varsity football staff
>> Head coach, defensive coordinator, safeties: Mark Kurisu (second season, 10-2-1; first season was in 2011)
>> Defensive line: Alasi Matautia
>> Offensive special teams coordinator and linebackers: Darrin Matsumiya
>> Defensive special teams coordinator and running backs: Wayne Thompson
>> Cornerbacks: Chad Townsend
>> Offensive line: Pat San Nicolas and Tui Alailima
>> Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks: Andrew Manley
>> Wide receivers: Kimo Manley
>> Special teams kicking and punting and slotbacks: Kalani Navares