The numbers don’t look drastically different, but Kona Andres is another kind of quarterback this season.
With second place in the division — and a first-round bye — on the line, he was masterful in Leilehua’s 33-6 win over Farrington on Friday night at Hugh Yoshida Stadium. That gave the 10th-ranked Mules a 5-2 mark in division play (6-2 overall).
A year ago, the Mules were young and struggling against the best of the OIA’s Division I teams. Andres often scrambled and scrambled, just trying to survive. On Friday night, he was 16-for-30, tossing two TD passes in the first half. His yardage total was modest — 165 yards – but it was his composure and efficiency that make him leaps and bounds ahead of the QB of 2016.
“Humility. Love. He loves his team,” Mules coach Mark Kurisu said. “He’s a leader in the school and a leader in the classroom. I asked him to be a leader on the football field, and it drains him, but he’s able to let other people help the team be victorious, it takes off a lot of stress. That’s our goal, to make things easier for him. He loves the game and enjoys the game.”
What also helps is a powerful ground attack. Running back James McGary mustered just 3 yards in three attempts early in the game against a ferocious Farrington front seven, but the Mules kept pounding away, and by halftime, he had 65 yards. Moments into the second half, he tore off a 46-yard TD run, and after suffering an ankle injury on a 16-yard carry, McGary was done for the night with his team ahead 24-0. He finished with 131 yards on 17 carries. The Mules rushed for 161 yards on 43 carries, and McGary will likely be healthy enough in two weeks when Leilehua plays in the OIA quarterfinals.
“It’s like a disease, ankle biters,” McGary said, referring to the handful or so leg injuries suffered by his teammates against Farrington.
Leilehua was persistent about attacking the inside gaps.
“We’ve got to tire the D-line out,” McGary said.
“It’s a version of a Waianae,” Kurisu said. “They’ll hit you with 30 trap and you might stop it once or twice. Once we start reading it a little better, we’ll hit the gap hard and the O-linemen will finish their blocks and we’ll finish our runs. Our coaching staff, give a lot of credit to them, they’ve really dedicated so much time to our players to help them perform at a high level. That’s what Leilehua football is about. We pass the ball, yeah, but our heart is our O-linemen, D-linemen, linebackers and running backs. Farrington’s a great defense. They’re huge. No. 44 (Blessing Umaga) is a stud in the middle, so we made adjustments in game.”
The Mules were in a robustly good mood after clinching second place in the OIA Red.
“We believed they could be this good. We knew they could reach standards and levels they never thought they could hit,” Kurisu said. “My biggest message for our players is, people will watch you guys and wonder how you’re doing this. You’re not supposed to do this. That’s how the world is. The world is mediocre, but our guys are built for bigger and better things. They’ve enjoying the fruits of their labor. You look at where we were last year and what we’re able to do this year, it’s real special for them to experience it. We’re just grateful we get to do this for another two weeks. If we can take care of business, maybe we can get ourselves another goal we’re reaching for.”
The break — first-round bye — is timely.
“This is the last week of school, finals, and a lot of our guys are drained,” he added.