CLOSING THE BOOK: 2019 Kalaheo Mustangs

Kalaheo's Jordan Neufeldt hauled in a pass against Kauai. Photo by Darryl Oumi/Special to the Star-Advertiser.

>> 0-10 overall, 0-8 OIA Division II

>> Darrell Poole is 18-54 in eight seasons at Kalaheo

>> 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.



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.

Kalaheo’s Isaiah Akiu (3) threw on the run against Kauai. Photo by Darryl Oumi/Special to the Star-Advertiser.

2019 STATS

Isaiah Akiu1095-230-158401
Jordan Neufeldt109-18-1890
Jack Lemonds40-1-000
Jordan Neufeldt101034626
Payton Barber4321490
Jackson Aber728820
Bryson Johnson726721
Jack Lemonds42260
Arie Eaton11-20
Izaiah Abordo51-20
Alan Aber12-40
Adam Ferguson11-50
Sheldon Mejia23-110
Isaiah Akiu1036-1220
Jordan Neufeldt10252601
Justin Taylor4101570
Jonah Lene8201550
Izaiah Abordo5201420
Bryson Johnson7121220
Riis Webber79400
Sheldon Mejia24270
Jackson Aber72180
Elijah Taylor1170
Matthew Darnell Jr.1110
The Kalaheo Mustangs seniors gathered with coach Darrell Poole after their season-ending loss to Kaiser on Friday. Photo by Brian McInnis/Star-Advertiser.
Kalaheo’s Jonah Lene powered through tacklers in a game against McKinley this season. Photo by George F. Lee/Star-Advertiser.
Kalaheo’s Bryson Johnson put a stiff arm against McKinley’s Julian Hendrickson in a game. Photo by George F. Lee/Star-Advertiser.
Kalaheo’s Isaiah Akiu (3) eluded the tackle attempt by Kauai’s Bradshaw Sobleski (76) during the Mustangs’ season opener. Photo by Darryl Oumi/Special to the Star-Advertiser.
Kalaheo’s Riis Webber (1) turned upfield after intercepting a pass in his first varsity game as a freshman. Photo by Darryl Oumi/Special to the Star-Advertiser.


  1. Bo October 15, 2019 9:14 pm

    0-10? Dang! 18-54? Double Dang!!

  2. JR October 16, 2019 6:24 am

    Numbers has always been a concern at Kalaheo, hopefully they’ll continue to field a team. Improvement will come, we look forward to seeing that in the near future.

  3. KailuaBond October 18, 2019 5:55 am

    Let’s not go there with the numbers. If you want to talk numbers, explain how the hell Kaimuki is able to be a top team with far lower? What about Waialua? It’s a joke this program. They be ashamed

  4. Eastside4lyf February 12, 2020 8:32 pm

    Yeah talk numbers, kalaheo has an enrollment number this year of around 800 kids, more than half(about 500)
    Of their students are females. So that’s trying to field a successful team from 300 kids.

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