>> 0-10 overall, 0-8 OIA Division II
>> Darrell Poole is 18-54 in eight seasons at Kalaheo
KEY UNDERCLASSMEN IN 2019
>> S/WR Riis Webber, 5-9, 160, Fr.; QB Isaiah Akiu, 5-6, 145, So.; DB/SB Bryson Johnson, 5-5, 130, Jr.; DB/WR Sheldon Mejia, 5-5, 125, So.
KALAHEO THROUGH THE YEARS: 1974-2019
HISTORICAL EQUIVALENT: 1978 Aiea
The good thing about hitting rock bottom is that there is nowhere to go but up.
The Kalaheo Mustangs went winless in 10 games this season, the worst in program history by that measure. But a deeper look shows a young group with a lot of potential.
Mike Akiu‘s 2002 squad was the only other winless group at 0-8, but that team scored only one touchdown all season, curiously at Kahuku. This season’s offense was worlds better than that one, averaging 7.4 points per game. That is the third-lowest output since the program began in 1974 and the number has decreased in each of the last four years.
Kalaheo’s defense allowed 28.2 points per game, a bad showing but not nearly as bad as Darrell Poole‘s 37 in 2016 and 35 in 2018. Those teams combined to win three games while this year’s team was shut out.
Poole has lost more games than any Kalaheo coach ever, but this year had some of his toughest, including 7-0 to Kauai to open the season and a 6-3 defeat to McKinley.
Those close calls led to a minus-20.8 differential, its worst since Poole’s 2016 team and third-worst in school history. Following Kalaheo’s previous winless season, Tony Tuioti came along and won four games the next season. The biggest jump came from 1985-86, when Darrell Smith coached a two-win team to seven victories.
Kalaheo’s historical equivalent is Ray Higa‘s 0-10 Aiea team in 1978. That group rebounded to win three games the next year.
The Mustangs went all in on a sophomore quarterback this year, handing the reigns to Isaiah Akiu. Poole trusted Akiu to a complete 50-50 split between run and pass this season despite calling for passes on 39 percent of the snaps in last year’s 4-6 campaign.
Akiu was not shy about putting the ball in the air, passing the ball 230 times for 840 yards, the school’s most since Mark Lehrner in 2016. That was all compilation, though, as Akiu completed only 41 percent of his attempts and threw 15 interceptions to only one touchdown. Akiu played his best against the best teams, throwing only three of his interceptions against tri-leaders Roosevelt, Kaimuki and Kaiser.
The Mustangs could afford to ride with Akiu’s growing pains because a trusted senior was right there with him every step of the way. Jordan Neufeldt was a 50-percent passer in 18 attempts, but his main production came as a running back.
Neufeldt carried the ball 103 times for 462 yards and six touchdowns. Throw in his one receiving score, and Neufeldt broke the plane seven of the eight times the team made it that far, including four of them against Waialua. Bryson Johnson was the only other Mustang to score on offense. Neufeldt was the most productive running back for Kalaheo since Christian Johnson went over the century mark four times for Poole’s first team in 2012, and he did it without carrying the ball in the first two games. Senior Payton Barber carried the load in the first month, but didn’t carry the ball after it despite an outstanding 4.7 yards per carry.
Neufeldt started the season where he left off last year, as the top receiver. Despite being moved to the backfield, he finished it the same way. Neufeldt caught 26 passes for 249 yards and the touchdown to lead the team for the second straight season, the first to do that at the school since Zachary Lovelace a decade ago.
One benefit to Kalaheo’s embrace of the passing game this year was the emergence of so many talented receivers. Neufeldt was obviously the biggest threat, but four other receivers caught at least 10 passes and covered 100 yards. None of them had a chance to celebrate in the end zone, but seniors Jonah Lene and Izaiah Abordo both caught 20 passes with Johnson, Justin Taylor and Riis Webber, a freshman, needing to be accounted for.
The team will undoubtedly miss Neufeldt, but the Mustangs have plenty of players to take the fancy new field next year. That list begins with Akiu a year older and wiser, throwing to guys like Johnson and Taylor. Poole spent the majority of the year teaching his 10 freshman and seven sophomores, but with such a small roster they earned valuable varsity experience.
|Matthew Darnell Jr.||1||1||1||0|