Aiea hangs tough against Leilehua

Aiea's Fabian Bautista has had to fill in at quarterback this season, but with Kayson Castillo back against Leilehua, Bautista had 101 receiving yards on 10 receptions. Photo by Jordan Fong/Special to the Star-Advertiser.

After seeing their homecoming ruined by a 40-21 loss at the hands of Leilehua, it would seem easy for the Aiea football team to sulk, or get down on themselves.

Instead, Na Alii finds themselves trying to embrace the positive outcomes and potential that was shown in the loss.

“Leilehua almost beat Moanalua last week, and the week before, we played Moanalua pretty tough,” head coach Wendell Say said.

Even with the perennial powerhouses of OIA football like Kahuku and Kapolei no longer in Aiea’s Division I categorization, Na Alii still often find themselves undersized and undermanned against their D-I opponents.

On their roster, Aiea lists just 28 players total. Their two biggest players, linemen Jonathan Tuiafitu and Molia Wongsee are both just 6 feet and weigh about 280 pounds. Nearly every other team in Division I has at least five players over 6-1, and all but two have at least three weighing over 300 pounds (‘Iolani and Nanakuli).

“We don’t have numbers,” Say said. “I think we only suited up 26 tonight? Our kids have to trust each other and play hard. We trust that our kids know that, and are going to come out here and give it our all.”

Still, despite the size deficit against Leilehua, Aiea was able to put up numbers, and keep up with the bigger, faster Mules. Quarterback Kayson Castillo threw for 380 yards, the fifth-highest total in Aiea history, and two receivers had double-digit receptions and over 100 yards. Zacharia Kalahiki-Basque led the team with 12 catches and 131 yards and Fabian Bautista added 10 for 101. A third receiver, Babu Capanang, had five for 85 yards.

Kalahiki-Basque has caught a TD pass in all six games this season.

“Everyone on this team is talented,” Say said. “We tell them to always be ready, because we will use everyone, everywhere. And tonight, we told them to keep fighting.

“I know it’s hard for these kids. Especially tonight, when they had success and put up those numbers. But Kayson is still shaking off the rust. He missed three games, and it’s only his second game back.”

Looking ahead to the rest of Aiea’s season, Say is hopeful that his scrappy team can again find the victory they so desire. Remaining on Aiea’s schedule are games against Castle, Kailua, and ILH-leading ‘Iolani.

“We tell the kids that they have to believe,” Say said. “They have to believe they’re good enough, because in this league, anyone can beat anyone.”


  1. Farney September 22, 2018 8:16 am

    Aiea was always known as a baseball town. Hard working blue collar Japanese families. Now that the Halawa housing is being farmed by ILH schools and Mililani, the big boys numbers have dwindled. It is what it is. When is coach Say going to call it quits?

  2. ??? September 22, 2018 11:35 am

    I agree, Aiea NEEDS to change HC.
    Bring back Mika Li’ili’i to run the program and the Halawa kids will comeback too. A lot of parents including ILH want their kids to play for Mika.
    “Vote MIKA 2019”

  3. High school FB Fan September 22, 2018 6:59 pm

    Blame the lax transfer rules, many Halawa boys catching bus to Mililani, ask one self, is it worth it? Spending 2-3 hrs commuting to high school? Don’t blame Coach Say, blame those who look away at what’s happening and those public school coaches who recruit in spite of “no recruiting” rules. No enforcement, no leverage. What happened to community pride? Playing for the High School one lives in? Too many with illusions of grandeur and playing for the wrong reasons. Too many parents shopping their kid around like a hot commodity. Dumb community parents allow these out of district transfers in to their school’s football program while their own sons who reside in the community end up being benchwarmers.

    Mika left Aiea on his own to what he sees as greener pastures, not very loyal to Aiea is he? Guess DJ made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.

  4. ??? September 22, 2018 10:58 pm

    @High school FB Fan
    I agree with you on parents shopping their kids and the laxed transfer rules.
    No one is blaming coach Say, but he’s been there since the 80’s and Aiea needs some new blood.
    FYI, coach Mika graduated from Castle and coached Aiea for over 15 years before he left last year; I’d say that’s VERY Loyal!!!

  5. High school FB Fan September 23, 2018 9:04 am

    Then why did he leave? He lives in Aiea, oversees the Halawa JPS youth team that feeds into Aiea HS. I remember watching Mika in high school, he was a player for sure.

    Just because a Coach has been there for awhile, doesn’t mean it’s old. Coach Say has had different younger, passionate, energetic Coordinators over the years. One is only as good was what they got, you do the best one can. He’s doing a fine job, instilling the values inherent to character building that Educators are supposed to do. All that I speak to and share, speak very highly of his program and what he does. From the outside looking in, one only sees wins and losses. if age is a factor, then Cal Lee should go, he’s in mid 70’s, great grandpa age. Ron Lee should go to. Even Darren Hernandez who’s been around what seems like forever and let’s not forget Wendell Look who’s pushing 60 something. Kale Ane is in his mid 60’s, get plenty old futs who are good coaches. If I miss anyone, LMK. Have a good Sunday! may your favorite pro team win!

  6. ??? September 23, 2018 10:58 am

    Why did he leave? Go ask him only he knows!
    You actually think Cal Lee would still be coaching if he had a losing season every year and parents were pulling their kids out of STL because of it?
    Your thoughts are outdated!
    Half of Aiea’s JPS team doesn’t even make it to Aiea, they go to Mililani, Radford, Campbell & ILH so you obviously don’t know what’s going on.
    My pro team always win cause I don’t have one🤙🏽

  7. High school FB Fan September 23, 2018 12:17 pm

    I did ask him, i know why but it’s not for print here. Cal has an advantage, their recruiting is 2nd to none. And thats the problem, the Halawa Knights look to greener pastures. Question mark, I know more then you think but i not going say in public. Who would hire one who left a program for another? Its called “burning bridges”. Have a good day Question Mark.

  8. ??? September 23, 2018 7:40 pm

    You don’t know JACK if you think Mika is NOT the one. Have a good clueless life.

  9. ??? September 24, 2018 9:36 am

    @High school FB Fan
    Burning bridges?
    I guess you NEVER heard of Cal Lee coaching @ Kaiser & Kalani after STL than going back to STL and still welcomed back with open arms???????

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