It was another career day for Jonan “Bubba” Aina-Chaves.
It probably won’t be the last time, either. The sophomore running back had already set an amazing precedent by rushing for 209 yards in a win at Konawaena on Aug. 19. On Friday afternoon, he went one step beyond with 215 rushing yards on 27 carries, scoring four TDs in the Saints’ 43-26 win at ‘Iolani.
This wasn’t yardage in a blowout win. ‘Iolani crept back into the contest, to no surprise, and was within 29-26 in the fourth quarter. It was Aina-Chaves’ 65-yard burst up the middle, all the way to paydirt, that gave the reeling Saints a much-needed cushion. His monster second half, which included a 2-yard TD run in the final minutes: 17 carries, 149 yards, two TDs.
“We were up 19, so we wanted to work some clock and wear them down with some ground and pound,” Saints coach Kip Akana said. “We have to clean up our penalties if we want to get through the ILH. We did a little better than last week, but we’re far from where we need to be.”
On a typical, sweltering hot afternoon at Eddie Hamada Field, Aina-Chaves seemed to get stronger with each carry.
“It’s all dedication to the sport. Going after practice, getting extra runs in, lifting weights extra. Telling your teammates to come out and put in extra work when practice is done,” he said. “Today was a special day. I just had to protect the ball because I’ve been fumbling. That’s one thing I have to work on. Thanks to my teammates and everybody.”
In all, Aina-Chaves has become the school record-holder in single-game rushing yardage by Game 3 of his young career, and then again in Game 5. Who does that?
“The kid is tough to bring down. He’s small in stature but he’s strong. He can run away from you. He can juke you. He can run you over. With his determination, we’re pleased,” Akana said.
The offensive line, at times, resembled Hilo. When the Vikings visited ‘Iolani a few weeks ago, it was a mix of pulling guards, some trapping and pure power that overwhelmed ‘Iolani’s defense. Kahale Huddleston rushed for 244 yards that afternoon. On Friday, the 65-yard TD run by Aina-Chaves also involved mobile, trapping linemen.
Perhaps nearly as intriguing is the continued comeback of Tyson Shimabukuro, who finished with 26 yards on five carries. He has gotten stronger with each game since returning from a season-ending knee injury last year. Shimabukuro posted three of the top 10 single-game rushing totals in school history, with a career-best 170 yards against Pac-Five in 2016.
The Saints staff planned on studying the game film on Friday night, then returning to practice on Saturday morning. The players will get some conditioning work in.
“It was a good victory over ‘Iolani and now we get ready for Damien,” Akana said. “Damien with Marcus Faufata-Pedrina back there, the ILH defending champs, they’re a dangerous team with a good defense, similar to what we have. We’re excited.”