CLOSING THE BOOK: 2019 Kalani Falcions

Kalani receiver Jonathan Cai (6) beat Pearl City defensive back Reily Pascual (20) to catch a pass in the back of the end zone for a touchdown. Photo by Steven Erler/Special to the Star-Advertiser.

>> 4-6 overall, 3-5 OIA Division II

>> Scott Melemai is 15-20 in four seasons with the Falcons

>> QB Logan Lim, 5-11, 165, So.; WR Dillon Cortez, 6-0, 155, So.; DB Jaymn Mohika-Poche, 5-4, 145, Jr.; WR Noah Ah Sam, 5-10, 162, So.



With a sophomore quarterback and junior receiver leading Kalani, the future is certainly bright for the Kalani Falcons.

Scott Melemai has picked up right where Greg Taguchi left off, crafting a competitive near-.500 club, bouncing back to 4-6 after a 3-7 season a year ago. 

The offense jumped light years ahead of where it was in Melemai’s third season, averaging 20.1 points per game after enduring a summer with 2018’s 5.5 mark on its mind. That’s the biggest jump from one year to the next since Taguchi’s 1996 group.

The defense improved as well, gaining nearly a field goal on last year’s group to compile a 23.6 average against. Those numbers add up to a minus-3.5 point differential, the first time in six years they were negative for successive seasons but a long way away from the dark days a decade ago.

Kalani has never had a winning coach, and Melemai’s .454 is the best winning percentage in the program’s history. He is already third on the school’s victories list, behind only Taguchi and Al Wills.

The offense’s resurgence came despite running nearly 200 fewer plays on that side of the ball, staying with the same basic scheme and using better protection to put the ball in the air four percent more than in 2018. Melemai seems to have a special knack for keeping his quarterback upright, with only three players throwing passes in the last two years.

Sophomore Logan Lim was the selection at QB this year, taking over for Nicholas Sakamoto who moved to linebacker. Lim started the year with victories over Kohala and Kalaheo and put up 46 attempts without an interception. And then the turnover bug began to bite him. Lim threw at least one interception in every game the rest of the way. Sakamoto took over for the Waialua game and threw nine of 15 incomplete passes but didn’t turn the ball over.

With the quarterback position remaining stagnant, the biggest reason for the jump in the offense is a dedicated running back. Sakamoto led the team in rushing last year with 287 yards as the quarterback — the QB had led the team in rushing in the last three years — until Nathaniel Balangitao led it with 635 yards and eight touchdowns this season.

Balangitao got nearly 100 more carries than he did last year, and that increase in chances led to a 4.5 yards per carry average compared to last year’s 4.1. Balangitao earned the most rushing yards and rushing touchdowns for the team since Sean Silas in 2015, with Silas going 137-688-5 to Balangitao’s 140-635-5. His biggest games came in his only 100-yard rushing performance against McKinley and two-score games against Nanakuli, Kalaheo and Waialua. Nine different players carried the ball for Kalani, with Joshua Oh and Jake Lee providing the most relief. Sakamoto only got 18 carries but scored two touchdowns.

Balangitao was a cursory threat as a receiver, catching six passes for 71 yards and a touchdown. Dillon Cortez and Jake Lee had Lim’s attention the most, combining for 43 catches for 571 yards and five touchdowns, with Cortez providing a step up from last year’s top receiver, Jerick Robinson, in yards but with 11 fewer catches. Cortez enjoyed his best game against Pac-Five, catching six passes for 80 yards and a touchdown but was held in check (4-35) against Roosevelt, Kaiser and Kaimuki, with neither Cortez nor Lee earning a catch against the Rough Riders. 

Expect the offense to take another great leap next year, with Lim and Noah Ah Sam presumably returning for their junior years. Lim’s favorite hookup, Cortez, is only a junior so that connection has another year to grow.

Kalani started sophomore Logan Lim at quarterback in its season-opening 35-0 win over Kohala. Photo by Billy Hull/Star-Advertiser.

Updated: Oct. 13, 2019

Logan Lim981-213-121,0058
Nicholas Sakamoto107-24-01331
Nathaniel Balangitao91406358
Joshua Oh3301730
Jake Lee8211162
Logan Lim966632
Connor Mararagan211590
Nicholas Sakamoto1018422
Jaden Self22170
Royce Manriki21100
Tyler Matsumoto15-20
Dillon Cortez9223522
Jake Lee8212193
Jaymn Mohika-Poche681460
Jonathan Cai59981
Jaden Self36841
Noah Ah Sam36741
Nathaniel Balangitao96711
Pearl Lee34270
Jevin Matsukado23240
Logan Tanaka11210
Connor Mararagan21180
Joshua Oh2130
Kalani’s Jaden Self got past Pac-Five’s Dane Ishibashi for a big gain. Photo by Jay Metzger/Special to the Star-Advertiser.
Kalani’s Nathaniel Balangitao carried the load for the Falcons offense with 115 rushing yards in a win over McKinley. Photo by George F. Lee/Star-Advertiser.
Kalani quarterback Logan Lim (15) stiff-armed Pearl City linebacker Thiessen Wright (34) for extra yardage during a game this season. Photo by Steven Erler/Special to the Star-Advertiser.
Kalani’s Jake Lee tried to get past McKinley’s Brandon Chae to pick up more yardage. Photo by George F. Lee/Star-Advertiser.
Kalani’s Nathaniel Balangitao scored on a screen pass against Pearl City. Photo by Steven Erler/Special to the Star-Advertiser.


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