The list of exports from Hawaii to the mainland has grown.
In addition to a small number of high school football players suiting up in Utah, a few more made their debuts over the weekend. Among them was Kahuku quarterback Tiger Adolpho, who started for defending Idaho 5A state champion Rigby in a 51-0 win over Box Elder.
Adolpho, a junior, made the move long before Hawaii’s football season was in jeopardy. On Aug. 5, the HHSAA postponed football, cross country, girls volleyball and competitive cheer to early 2021. However, Adolpho moved to Idaho the day after Kahuku lost to Saint Louis in the Open Division state final. That was last November.
“I was born here. I moved to Hawaii in the beginning of sixth grade,” Adolpho said by phone on Monday afternoon, Mountain Standard Time. “My dad (Rick) has a business here. The basketball season had already started, so I needed to get here as soon as possible.”
Now 6 feet, 2 inches and 194 pounds, the junior was 9-for-10 with 220 yards and one touchdown pass in the win on Saturday. The TD was an 80-yard play.
“My pocket presence has increased by a lot, and that has to do with our line. Almost all of them are returnees, all great, all seniors,” Adolpho said.
He compared Box Elder to Kamehameha in terms of talent and size. At Rigby, which was 10-1 last year, preparation is different.
“The amount of film we study, we study more than we practice. For quarterbacks, it’s 30 minutes before (team) film session, then once everyone gets there, an hour or an hour and 15 minutes. That’s on the normal,” he said.
In Idaho, there were no preseason games. Rigby had one tri-scrimmage and the rest of the time, rep after rep.
“Video showed me that I have more time than I personally thought I had. After how much hours we spend watching film, we know the exact moves, what happens when the safety walks down, the body language,” Adolpho said. “This last game, they had a weak safety that just tells everything.”
The rest of Hawaii’s exports are in Utah, where football season is underway: Tausili Akana (Wasatch) and Kiai Keone (Skyridge) of Kamehameha; Kainoa Carvalho (Skyridge), Alan Talanoa (Pine View) and Danny Kaio (Timpview) of Kahuku; and Devon Sa-Chishom (Orem) of Lahainaluna. Akana, a sophomore linebacker, received an offer from UNLV over the weekend and now has five total.
For all, the move was about opportunity. Hawaii’s football season in early 2021 is no guarantee. In Utah and Idaho, they are playing games and getting exposure. The two states have many FBS and FCS programs, as well as smaller colleges and junior colleges. The process is far from perfect: two games were cancelled in the season-opening weekend due to coronavirus. At one Utah high school, Enterprise, students rebelled against a call by parents to have a “No Mask Monday.” The students defied parents and wore their masks to school today.
Precautions are in effect across the two states.
“They’re real strict on (protocols). The other day, a couple of kids were above the temperature and they weren’t allowed to practice,” Talanoa said. “This is my last year and I really don’t want to miss out on it. I want to keep playing the sport I love. I want to live life and not let the pandemic put it on pause, so we wear our masks. I don’t like wearing it. It’s irritating and hurts my ears, but I’ll wear it no matter what.”
Adolpho and Talanoa don’t have offers yet, but it’s just a matter of time.
“Yesterday (Sunday), a lot of recruiting coordinators started following me,” said Adolpho, who has a 3.4 grade-point average. “Louisville, Duke, Montana Western, Boise State, Utah. And a lot of smaller schools in Idaho have reached out.”
Talanoa was 5-11 and 180 pounds as a junior linebacker at Kahuku. He is now 6-1 (listed at 6-2) and 215 pounds. He trained through the offseason with Kahuku assistant coach Sola Soliai.
“Coach Sola kept training me and made sure I kept my agility and strength,” Talanoa said. “I feel like it just depends on the way you work and the way you got your weight (gain). I got a growth spurt. I was happy with that. It’s the Polynesian food on the North Shore. Maybe all the food Zion (Ah You) has been giving me.”
Ah You considered transferring to Utah, but opted to stay at Kahuku for his senior season — which was postponed to early 2021.
Pine View has played three preseason games. Talanoa has posted video on social media in the past, but the return is different now. Since transferring to Utah, he has gained contact with Air Force, Colorado, Hawaii, Michigan, Navy, Utah State and Tennessee, along with smaller programs like Linfield and Pacific.
“I feel like I’m getting close to an offer,” Talanoa said. “I’m really hoping it’s Utah State. That’s one of the schools I’m really trying to go to.”
He plans to continue marketing himself, much like student-athletes back in the islands have done successfully.
“I understand there’s a million kids across the country sending coaches a lot of emails and video, but if you keep sending out, they’re going to reach out to you. Back home, even if you only have a little bit of film, the coaches might like what they see and they’ll get back to you,” Talanoa said. “Just because you send one film and the coaches don’t reply, that doesn’t mean you should stop. You’ve got to put yourself out there.”
There’s still work to be done, of course. Talanoa has a 2.9 GPA and hasn’t taken the SAT yet. A large number of student-athletes saw their spring-semester SAT cancelled by the pandemic.
Talanoa keeps a Kahuku Red Raider flag on the wall of his room.
“I knew a lot of the kids wouldn’t really want to transfer. It was a real hard decision. I remember talking to Zion and his whole thing was, ‘I’m a Red Raider forever.’ Don’t get me wrong, I’m a Red Raider forever, too, but if I want to play at the next level, I knew I had to make a sacrifice like this,” he said.
At Rigby, Adolpho stays with his grandmother (Davyne).
“My dad’s business started in Boise, but that’s three or four hours away, so I’m living with her. I like her hamburgers. They’re the best I’ve had,” he said.
He and younger brother Tucson have been a dutiful guests.
“Her analogy is if we leave dishes in the sink, we’re telling her we don’t care, so we do the dishes every night,” Adolpho said. “She expected this to happen. She’s also kind of ready for us to get out so she can have her space back. We’re building a house out here in Rigby.”
Adolpho won’t be returning to Kahuku, it seems, except to visit family.
“I miss the culture. I miss game day, the crowds. The flags in Kahuku. How much support they give to the Red Raiders,” he said. “I miss the beach. Pounders. Castle beach, definitely. Not that the surf was super big, but just everyone having a good time. I miss my family, all my dad’s family. Pot lucks after practice. Any time I’m hungry, I’d head over to my grandma (Laura Adolpho)’s house and she always has something cooked. Her banana creme pie, me and my dad’s favorite.”
Talanoa seems more likely to transfer back home, but the opportunity to attend camps and combines is less costly on the continent.
“I really miss Kahuku. The community. The people. The families. The tradition. Just the North Shore. What I miss the most is walking out of that lockerroom and seeing the whole community supporting you. Seeing family. That red sea,” he said.
“Shout out to my family, especially my mom (Kimberly Falemalu-Talanoa). I call her every day before I go to sleep. She is always supporting my decisions and has my back,” Talanoa added. “Shout out to Coach Sola Soliai for always helping me out. My uncle, Keala Santiago, always making the effort to get on me. He’s a tough guy, but he’s a good person. And the whole Kahuku coaching staff.”