There are many ways to gauge a team from start to finish.
For neighbor island football programs, it is a long, long way from Point A to Point B. For a defending three-time Division II state champion like Lahainaluna, Week 0 was a mixed bag, losing at home to a D-I contender in the ILH (Damien) in overtime. At the other end of the spectrum, Molokai’s first game in 11-man football since the 1960s was difficult, yet promising despite a 37-0 loss at Nanakuli.
Defending BIIF champion and D-I state finalist Hilo had a bye, but several title contenders were in action over the weekend. Defending KIF champion and D-II state finalist Kapaa was also idle. BIIF D-II powerhouse Konawaena, now in D-I, also had a break.
Here’s a look back and a glance forward.
>> Kealakehe perfect so far
The Waveriders were once the dominant program in the BIIF, under Cliff Waters, then Sam Papalii. It got to the point that tiny D-II programs preferred to forfeit against Kealakehe rather than risk injury.
This season, Wyatt Nahale made the move from JV coach at Konawaena to the top post at Kealakehe. The 13-7 win at Pearl City on Friday is a microcosm of what is possible in one of the most athletically talented districts statewide. Some teams, including OIA powerhouse Campbell and ILH powers Saint Louis and Kamehameha, have eschewed game action in preseason. For Kealakehe, it was a must.
“It’s very valuable. The thing that’s great about us playing Pearl City is we got to get battle-tested early, a test of our wills right up front. That’s something that can help us get better. It gets our program and our boys going in the (right) direction,” Nahale said.
The Waverider defense nearly tossed a shutout against the resilient Chargers.
“Our defense played tough. They battled in there,” Nahale added. “I know up front (Mason) Solmonson stood out on defensive line. Our linebacker Kristian Delima stepped up.”
The head coach also gave props to the secondary.
“Our two corners, Jesse Meza and Mitchell Monroy, really locked it down for us, as well as our safeties. They really were flying over the top. I’m really proud of them,” Nahale said. “Offensively, we as a staff are going to go back and work on our execution.”
The Waveriders have two weeks until their next game, an ultimate showdown with rival and frenemy Konawaena at the Wildcats’ home turf, Julian Yates Field. Nahale expects the players who were sidelined by poor academics or injuries to be suited up for that clash.
“We’re hoping this will get us healthy. Konawaena, I still understand, no matter what division they’re in, they’re always that team you’ve got to worry and be concerned about because they’re well-coached,” Nahale said. “We want to be ready and physically healthy.”
Nick Abramo covered the game and had these thoughts.
• “My first impression of Kealakehe was that the Waveriders appeared to be a lot bigger than the Pearl City players in warmups.”
• “Their offense was pretty basic with runs coupled with some nickel and dime passes. Twice, receivers broke free for big plays that led to touchdowns. The quarterback (Shayden Nahale) is a good leader.”
• “Defensively, Kealakehe didn’t let Pearl City do much, but got caught a couple of times on big plays at the end and it almost led to a loss. The Waveriders probably could have used better time management with a 13-0 lead. They had trouble picking up key first downs that would have prevented a Chargers comeback.”
• “It is evident that there is a belief in new coach Wyatt Nahale and his staff.. When asked for his thoughts about coming to Oahu and getting a win here, receiver (Hunter) Wehrsig, who caught a touchdown pass to break a scoreless tie, immediately brought up the new coaching staff and how they are pushing the players to improve the program from what it was.”
>> Kauai’s question mark is now a quest
Kauai’s 7-0 win over Kalaheo at Alex Kane Stadium was a nice road experience for the Red Raiders. Brian McInnis covered the defensive battle and shares his perspective in this mini-Q&A.
BMAC: I was a little surprised how confident Kauai was in playing off island in a road game, even though it wasn’t a true home environment for Kalaheo at Alex Kane Stadium. No band, very small crowd. Anyway, Kauai’s starting quarterback Awe Parangao (who gave way to sophomore Andrew Passi) seemed to think his team would win big. I surmised that was because they smashed Kalaheo 40-6 on the Garden Isle last year. But their coach, Jason Apilado, shook his head at their many miscues; he clearly expected better, even for the first game of the season. Kalaheo’s line was incredibly small and young with a bunch of guys on probation and I think he felt they should’ve exploited that to a greater degree.
HPW: How Kauai might fare in the KIF?
BMAC: “It seemed like they have quite a bit to get sorted in order to be a championship-caliber team like Kapaa has been in the KIF of late. But Passi was impressive in taking over for the final three quarters. I think he’ll be their guy going forward, as Parangao seems better suited to slotback and also seemed capable on defense (he snared a pick). Running back Kamu Peahu showed some athleticism in going for 100 yards on 15 carries. I don’t know how good Kapaa is this year, but if I had to guess they’re still the team to beat.
HPW: Other thoughts?
BMAC: “I was impressed with Apilado and his staff’s systematic addressing of the team in their postgame gathering on the field. Very businesslike, you could tell the coaches were very in tune with each other as about four or five coaches spoke to the team in turn. Including the camping/bonding trip on campus that Apilado talked about from the previous weekend, it left me with the impression that he’s got a very tight handle on his program.”
>> King Kekaulike future so bright
Does the end of an inglorious losing streak justify the start of major optimism? Definitely. Last year was last year, and Na Alii are rejuvenated. The program won the D-II state title not so many years ago. Why not challenge again?
Standing between King Kekaulike and a state tournament berth will be Kamehameha-Maui and Lahainaluna. Dreaded Lahainaluna has been the best team in the MIL for years, since the days of Baldwin’s previous dominance under Chad Kauha‘aha‘a and Jimmy Morimoto with standout players like Jordan Helle and Kaluka Maiava.
Kyle Sakamoto covered the game and highlighted the influence of Franco Melgar Martich in his Hawaii Prep World post. Kyle also had these insights.
• “The defensive front is pretty active.”
• “The quarterback is mobile and has a decent arm. (He) punts and placekicks, also.”
• “Their top receiver, who set a (single-game) state record for receiving yards last season, left at halftime. (He) may have injured his ribs.”
• “No. 42 is a big back who can run over defenders.”
All in all, this sounds like King Kekaulike has very interesting potential.
>> Molokai taking baby steps toward 11-man
The Farmers left half of their 48-player roster back home, particularly younger players along with injured or academic-probation student-athletes.
This season, there are two 11-man games, then the MIL 8-man season. There had been talk for a few years about Molokai’s interest in making the jump from eight-man to 11-man. The Farmers have fielded the deepest and physically biggest program in MIL eight-man. With the changes within the MIL — inaugural champion Seabury Hall has officially dropped out — and the BIIF, where all three eight-man teams have moved to 11-man, there is little reason for Molokai to remain in eight-man for much longer.
Now, they have just two opponents in the MIL: Lanai and Hana. In-season exhibition games against Ka‘u, Pahoa and Kohala of the BIIF would be fitting, but cost is always a challenge.
Farmers coach Mike Kahale chatted with Hawaii Prep World after the game at Nanakuli. Among the topics: the emergence of first-time player Vaai Seumalo.
HPW: To get from Point A to Point B, what are the ups?
Kahale: This is historical, a step in the right direction. We competed well in the first quarter. Held them to 0-0. Our defense was playing well. Offensively, we struggled, weren’t able to execute, but yeah, I can take some positives out of this.
HPW: When the offense was clicking, there’s a lot of potential going on. You left a lot of the young players home.
Kahale: We left the young kids back home. We felt like they weren’t ready. We had a rash of injuries, four or five starters that didn’t make it, and some guys on ARS (academic review). We’ll have a bigger squad next week when we go to Kamehameha-Maui.
HPW: So you’ll have the academic probation guys back next week.
Kahale: If they make their grade check. They should. It’s just the first week of school, so we should hopefully figure things out.
HPW: Six guys playing both ways tonight?
Kahale: Eight guys started, playing both ways.
HPW: And the whole team is playing special teams, so that’s crazy. They spent everything. They had leg cramps. Hoolehua is at elevation. Do you think the difference in weather had an impact.
Kahale: You know, a lot of the guys who cramped up were playing both ways. They’re not used to taking that many reps. We had mustard packets. I knew that was going to happen. I told the guys if you cramp up, you owe me a plate lunch because cramps are avoidable as long as you stay hydrated.
HPW: There are guys who played every down.
Kahale: Probably 80 to 90 percent of our guys.
HPW: As far as Kaimana Nakayama, he was great for what you guys could do. Good decisions, mostly.
Kahale: Yeah, he’s one of our leaders, one of our senior captains out there making plays for us. Mentally tough. Spent. Completely spent, but with a good attitude and ready to go every single play.
HPW: He was back there floating at safety and made a great deflection on a deep pass. And 76 was impressive.
Kahale: Yeah, Vaai Seumalo. He’s a senior for us, first year ever playing organized football. Wasn’t able get him out the first three years. He’s got to be 6-2, 275 maybe. Good grades, good student.
HPW: Is he good enough to qualify if he was to walk on (in college)?
Kahale: I think so.
HPW: Or do you think he should take the JC route and learn block by block?
Kahale: You know, it’s still early on. He’s still learning the ropes.
HPW: But he’s a natural.
Kahale: Yeah, he is. He’s very athletic. Plays basketball. Plays volleyball. Moves pretty well.
HPW: And he’s a natural 270, and not the kind of guy who has been training for the World Strongman competition.
Kahale: Absolutely just big and strong.
HPW: Does Kimo von Oelhoffen know about this guy?
Kahale: I’m not sure. Vaai went to the UH Camp with Rolo guys. He got some looks there. If he has a passion and a love for the game, I know he could play at the next level.
HPW: Your backs, No. 4 and No. 8, they played both ways all game long. They might body cramp soon. You guys fly tomorrow (Sunday)?
Kahale: Yeah, we fly home tomorrow. Nanakuli has been a great host. They fed us pre-game sandwiches and chips. They’ll feed us after the game, as well.
HPW: Where are you guys staying?
Kahale: In the gym. We’re staying in the wrestling room.
HPW: That’s great. No hotel bill. Who was the most underrated performer?
Kahale: The biggest surprise, performance-wise, had to be Vaai. He played well. His first organized game today. Never had organized football for his age group. First game ever in his life.
HPW: How many of the guys who will come back are linemen?
Kahale: Most of our linemen are eligible. It’s our linebackers and our backs, and a couple of wide receivers that are ineligible.
HPW: How many people came over? It looks like 40 or 50.
Kahale: Molokai, the community is spread out on all islands so the supporters are coming out and cheered us on. They’re going to love us no matter what the score is. I told the boys go out and hug their families. We’ll learn from it, get better from it. We took a whupping, for sure.
HPW: In the BIIF, the eight-man teams moved to 11-man. You guys had already been pushing for 11, right? It’s hard to play eight-man with 48 kids.
Kahale: A lot of those guys are young guys. We had hope that at one time the state would host an eight-man state championship, but other leagues weren’t interested. When Kohala, Ka‘u and Pahoa moved up, that kind of squashed our dreams. Now we’re left with ourselves, Lanai and Hana. Seabury’s not even fielding a team this year.
HPW: It hasn’t been the same at Seabury Hall since Steve Colflesh retired. So Hana and Lanai, no St. Anthony.
Kahale: I know St. Anthony has been talking. They may have run in 7v7 on Maui. Their enrollment has been growing. Maybe in the future they can run a Pac-2.
HPW: What about Kihei Charter?
Kahale: They were in our eight-man league for one year, but we never got to play them. There was a hurricane and something else happened, and it got cancelled.
HPW: How far can you guys go? Next week, you have Kamehameha-Maui.
Kahale: It’s two preseason games, then four games in 8-man. We haven’t made any official move up. We’re just trying to test the waters.
HPW: Did you consider making a move to 11-man this year?
Kahale: We’re looking to move in that direction (11-man), not this year. The conversation didn’t happen. I don’t think we could move this year even if we wanted to. The ADs didn’t have that conversation. There was no declaration that said we were going to. And we didn’t know that Seabury was going to be out and those Big Island teams were going to be moving up. But we’re kind of looking in that direction anyway.
HPW: What did you think of Nanakuli’s quarterback (Sedric Crawford)?
Kahale: He was good. He missed a couple of passes, but they found a couple of open zones. He hit us on a couple of seam routes for touchdowns.They run that quick tunnel screen or the quick five-and-out all day, and we just didn’t have the bodies out there to tackle.