The Diablos are here.
The highly regarded Mission Viejo football team from Southern California is practicing and preparing for Friday night’s game at Konawaena.
And they’re having fun.
“The kids are soaking it all in,” coach Chad Johnson said Wednesday morning by phone. “We all went out for shave ice near our hotel (Sheraton Kona Resort) last night.”
The team arrived Sunday and attended a luau Monday night and they’ve been going to the beach most days after morning practices.
Johnson mentioned that the kids are doing well on the football end of the bargain, too.
“Every single day, they know it’s 100 percent football until practice ends,” he said. “They’re focused and locked in and then they can enjoy their vacation after noon. They’ve been really good about it.”
Tonight, the Diablos will be eating dinner with the Konwaeana Wildcats, their opponent Friday at Konawaena’s field.
Mission Viejo finished 6-6 a year ago, but actually went 10-2 on the field. Four losses were by forfeit at midseason due to an ineligible player that Johnson said was due to incorrect paperwork. The Diablos finished No. 26 in the MaxPreps national computer rankings. They made the CIF playoffs and lost 56-17 to eventual state champion Mater Dei, which finished No. 1 nationally by MaxPreps.
This year MaxPreps ranks Mission Viejo 10th among schools in California.
“We came here to win a football game,” Johnson said. “It’s not (technically) a vacation. At the same time, we want to take advantage of the opportunity before us, an opportunity to bond as a family and a community and to experience something many may never experience again, except maybe on their honeymoon. We can enjoy the beautiful island and its culture.”
Brad Uemoto, the Konawaena coach who is always looking for ways to build his program, didn’t hesitate to schedule one of the California powerhouses.
In the spring, he said, “Not a lot of teams here would want to take that one on.”
Johnson expects a tough matchup
“They are a pretty darn good football team defensively,” he said. “They play physical. They play hard. We’re excited to take on a good football team and program. We want to get better stay healthy and hopefully get a victory.”
Keanu Tanuvasa, a defensive lineman for the Diablos, has a Hawaii connection. He is the nephew of Maa Tanuvasa, the current Mililani assistant who is a former Denver Broncos star. Keanu’s dad, Shawn Tanuvasa, is a former Kahuku and University of Utah player.
Tanuvasa, a tackle, is one of four starters on the defensive line that Johnson says is one of the team’s biggest strengths.
The other three on the defensive line are ends Lance Keneley and Logan Schwenke and tackle Micah Carreon.
“Offensively, we run up-tempo and spread it out and try to balance it out 50-50 run, pass,” Johnson said.
Junior running back Mavin Anderson is the lone four-star recruit on the roster according to 247Sports.
Mission Viejo is fully aware of and preparing for one of Konawaena’s top players, outside linebacker Alex Muti, who is a BYU commit.
The Wildcats are coming off a 24-7 victory over Kealakehe in their first league game in a higher division (from Division II last year to D-I).
Quarterback Boo Jones, a Kealakehe transfer and former slotback, led Konawaena (1-0, 1-0 BIIF) in that game, going 23-for-31 for 189 yards and two touchdowns.
Friday’s game is the season opener for Mission Viejo, which will visit Santa Margarita (Calif.) next Friday.