>> 1-8 overall, 1-5 in OIA Division I
>> Wendell Say is 125-138-2 in his 28 seasons.
KEY UNDERCLASSMEN IN 2019
>> RB Javon Miller, 6-0, 190, Jr.; DB/RB Dante Bareng, 5-6, 150, Jr.; QB/SE Jordan Cezar, 6-0, 160, Jr.; OL/DL Malaefono Ale, 6-0, 300, Jr.
AIEA THROUGH THE YEARS: 1962-2019
Aiea Na Alii always seems to ‘play up’ and always seems to fall short on victories but still have its share of memorable performances.
Na Alii went 1-8 this year, with the lone win coming against rebuilding Radford although everything clicked late in the season to scare Waipahu. Aiea hasn’t had a winning season since 2009 and hasn’t won three games in a season since 2016.
Aiea put up only 12.8 points per game, the school’s lowest output since the 2010 season when it won four games. That is a full touchdown per game off last season’s effort.
As bad as the offense was, the defense never gave it a chance. Wendell Say‘s defenders allowed 35.7 points per game, the highest average in school history and just the third time over 30 along with the 2017 (35.5), 2015 (34.3) and 2014 (33.8) squads. That made last year’s 26.9 average look stout in comparison. Aiea was shut out three times this year, the first time it has ever happened to a Say-coached group and the most since it was blanked four times in 1986.
That leaky defense led to a margin of victory of minus-22.9, making it the worst team by that measure since the school opened in 1962. The only teams that rival it are 2017’s minus-21.2 mark, Ray Higa‘s 1978 squad (minus-20.9) and Ed Kiyuna‘s winless first team in 1962 (minus-21.8).
Aiea’s historical equivalents are 1970 Nanakuli, which won two games, and Nino Murray‘s Moanalua team in 1990, which also earned twice the victories this year’s Na Alii did.
Say won the 125th game of his career. Only legends Larry Ginoza of Waianae, Radford’s John Velasco and Hugh Yoshida of Leilehua have won more contests in the OIA. Say is tied with Kapolei’s Darren Hernandez in career wins, but neither coach will be tasting the postseason this year.
Even with the offense’s woes, quarterback Kayson Castillo finished his season second in Division I with 1,085 yards but could drop out of the top eight with all of the other teams playing one more week.
This Aiea offense was quite different than it was in Castillo’s junior year. He attempted only 187 passes after putting up 305 the year before. Castillo’s breakout effort came with 293 yards and four touchdowns at Waipahu, his only game over 200 yards but well behind the 380 he put up against Leilehua last season.
A large part of the reason for Castillo’s reduced chances was a revolutionary commitment to the running game.
Aiea called on Javon Miller to run the ball 113 times, nearly twice as much as any lead back in the last five years and obliterating the 27 big dog Fabian Bautista got last year. The pass-run ratio wasn’t remarkably different from last year, but Na Alii kept hold of the ball so much longer and gave itself more plays from scrimmage. Miller turned the opportunity into 525 yards and five touchdowns, the most for an Aiea running back since Donny Mapusaga in 2004. Miller had two games over the century mark, the first time a running back did that for Say since Anae Vaa in 2009 and he got at least six carries in every game. Backup quarterback Jordan Cezar was second with only 23 carries but turned them into 69 yards. That would have led the team in rushing last year.
Miller also led the team in receiving touchdowns with three, and the threat he provided certainly benefited a talented receiving corps led by Dylan Soberano. Soberano missed the final two games but finished with 420 yards on 28 catches and two touchdowns, almost halfway to Zach Kalahiki-Basque‘s totals as the top target last year.
Soberano’s lone game over the century mark came in his last game against Kailua. Miller, Cezar and Josh Canosa all went over the century mark in a game at least once, the first time Aiea had four different weapons do so since 2006 when Alan Fonoti, Lofa Liilii, James Buchanan, Aldodius Colquitt and Daniel Liilii all did it.
For all of the talent, nobody had a night like Canosa did against Radford. Canosa collected four passes against the Rams, covering 165 yards and a touchdown. That explosion was good for sixth on the school’s single-game yardage chart and just the third game over 150 yards this decade.
There is no telling if Aiea will stay in Division I in Say’s 29th season, but the old coach will presumably have plenty of talent returning to his offense led by Miller at running back. Cezar could take over for Castillo at quarterback but that would leave his receiving corps looking for an alpha for him to throw to.
Updated: Oct. 6, 2019