CLOSING THE BOOK: 2019 Moanalua Na Menehune

In 2019, Moanalua celebrated after beating Leilehua in double overtime, 21-20, for its first OIA Division I championship. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser (Oct. 26, 2019).

>> 10-2 overall, 6-0 OIA Division I

>> Savai’i Eselu is 27-16 in four seasons with Na Menehune

>> OL MJ Javar, 5-8, 215, Jr.; OL/DL Maugaoutufao Tauiliili, 6-0, 240, So.; LB/DL Rodley Nelson Jr., 5-8, 190, Jr.; DB Gabriel Suka, 5-10, 145, Jr.



Siavii Eselu‘s Moanalua crew doesn’t lose much, but when it does it is a heartbreaker.

The 2019 OIA champion Na Menehune won 10 games in a season for the first time since Arnold Martinez‘s title crew in 2009 and Eselu is now 18-3 in the last two years with one of the losses costing them a state berth and the other a shot at a state title.

There could be a healthy debate whether the 2019 Moanalua squad was as good as the 2018 bunch that fell short, as the latest edition scored 25.6 points per game and gave up 16.3, both marks worse than last year. The offense fell by more than a touchdown and the defense slipped by nearly two points. That adds up to a point differential of 9.3, a mark shared by six teams since 1950. Of those, Wendell Say‘s 2001 squad was the only one to squeeze out 10 victories and Masa Yonamine‘s 1954 Waipahu group was the only other one to suffer two losses. That makes Moanalua quite a bunch of overachievers.

In four years, Eselu has already won the second-most games in program history and he has the top spot in his sights despite coaching only 43 games. Arnold Martinez is the dean, he won 51 of his 103 games in his 11 years from 2003-13.

RJ Javar moved over from Mililani after throwing just 17 passes for the Trojans last year, and he was a revelation for Motown. All Javar did was become the first Moanalua quarterback to throw for more than 3,000 yards in a season with 3,260 and 29 touchdowns. He did it on an incredible 406 attempts, the most for the school since Micah Kaneshiro slung it that much in 2013 but had 541 fewer yards to show for it. Javar threw for a touchdown in every game he played and threw multiple in his first 10 games before getting hurt against Leilehua. He was victimized for five interceptions against Iolani.

Javar’s top performance came against defending champion Waipahu, when he put up 431 yards and four touchdowns on 45 attempts to land at fifth on the school’s single-game yardage list behind only Kawika Keama-Jacobe, Ric Fukushima and Kaneshiro. He went over 300 yards four times this season, something no Moanalua quarterback has ever done. Brayden Faamasino was Javar’s understudy, coming off the bench to throw for 51 yards and beat Leilehua despite throwing only nine passes before being pressed into action. Standout receiver Rudi Kealohi was even better in that pivotal game, hitting four of his seven attempts for 39 yards and showing off his arm on three attempts in the state tournament loss to Iolani.

With Javar running and throwing it all over the lot, there was not much room for a rushing threat but Darius Johnson provided it. Javar led the team with 115 carries with sacks included. Johnson led the running backs with 75 chances after Lawson Lee got only 28 last year, and turned them into 218 yards and two touchdowns. Only one running back in Eselu’s tenure has earned 100 or more carries (Makana Spencer in 2017) and Kea Rodrigues is the only one to rush for more than 300 yards (311 in 2016). Johnson never got more than 12 carries but his workload became more consistent in the playoffs with more than eight in each game. He didn’t do much with them, though, being held to 72 yards in three games.

Jansen York was another talent who took off after moving from Mililani to Moanalua, becoming Javar’s favorite target with 84 catches for 1,235 yards and 10 touchdowns, reminding people of Ryan Ramones‘ 84-1,180-15 line in 2016 in Eselu’s first season. York had a slew of great performances, but none were better than his 16 catches, 168 yards and a touchdown in the season-ending loss to Iolani.

That effort shattered the HHSAA single-game receptions record of 14 by Fred Padrones of Leilehua against Saint Louis way back in 2010. He covered 188 yards in the regular season against Waipahu and went over the century mark six times in 12 games. His six times over 100 yards was the most in program history, breaking the record of five set by current Hawaii receiver Jason Sharsh in 2015. He scored in nine games this year, and at least once in each of the last five games when the competition got stiffer. As excellent as he was, York struggled against Castle and Sierra Vista with eight catches for only 35 yards.

Rudy Kealohi dropped down as Na Menehune’s second threat, and actually improved upon his team-leading numbers last year. Kealohi grabbed 89 passes for 977 yards and nine touchdowns after going 59-616-3 catching passes from Nick Au in 2018. It took a while for York to pass Kealohi on the priority list for defenses, especially after he opened the season with 14 catches for 149 yards against Iolani and added 13 catches for 198 yards and two touchdowns against Sierra Vista three weeks later. That effort landed him at seventh on Moanalua’s single-game receiving list behind only Karson Cruz, Jason Sharsh, Ryan Ramones and Michael Egami. York entered the list at No. 9 with his 188-yard effort, making it only the second time in program history different receivers have gained more than 180 yards in a game. Kealohi struggled a little down the stretch, being held without a catch by Leilehua — mostly because he spent time at quarterback — and only grabbing five balls for 26 yards in state against Iolani after torching the Raiders so badly in the season opener.

There was plenty of room for other receivers to step up, and Dacyres Domingo and Lawsen Lee were eager to oblige. They combined for 90 catches for 1,016 yards and nine touchdowns, with Domingo going over the century mark twice including 10 catches for 124 yards against Iolani and Lee providing a steady option after missing two games early in the season. Ayzeiah Callo-Saquiton, Jacob Richmond and So’onaoso Saole-Teixeira also provided moments.

York and Javar depart Moanalua short of the title they sought, and will take Kealohi, Lee, Domingo and Johnson with them. That doesn’t leave much returning at the skill positions, so Eselu might need another crop of talented transfers but has never had trouble coaching up past greats like Au, Lee and Kealohi. Faamasino returns for his senior year.

Moanalua wide receiver Lawsen Lee (12) caught a pass in the D-I state semifinals against ‘Iolani. Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell/Star-Advertiser.


RJ Javar12269-406-143,26029
Brayden Faamasino312-22-1941
Rudy Kealohi126-11-1640
Darius Johnson11752182
RJ Javar121152124
So'onaoso Saole-Teixeira8432050
Kainoa Titcomb23290
Jansen York119220
Malachi Pelesasa35160
Brayden Faamasino44140
Rudy Kealohi1219100
Nate Palasay1120
Jansen York12841,23510
Rudy Kealohi12899779
Dacyres Domingo11465595
Lawsen Lee10444574
Ayzeiah Callo-Saquiton59820
Jacob Richmond47611
So'onaoso Saole-Teixeira85240
Malachi Pelesasa3160
Darius Johnson11151
RJ Javar12100
Moanalua backup quarterback Rudy Kealohi helped lead Na Menehune to the 2019 OIA championship in Division I. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.
Moanalua receiver Jansen York (1) led the state in receiving. Photo by Steven Erler/Special to the Star-Advertiser.
Moanalua’s Aukai Grace (4) knocked down a pass intended for Leilehua’s Cody Akagi (14) during a regular season game. Photo by Darryl Oumi/Special to the Star-Advertiser.
Moanalua’s RJ Javar (10) became the first QB to surpass 2,000 passing yards this season in a win over Castle. Photo by Darryl Oumi/Special to the Star-Advertiser.
Moanalua’s Rashod Tanner was one of two Na Menehune to make the Honolulu Star-Advertiser All-State first team. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.
Moanalua’s Christian Sison fell backward as he intercepted a pass against Castle. Photo by Darryl Oumi/Special to the Star-Advertiser.
Moanalua’s Rudy Kealohi (11) snagged a pass in the end one to score a touchdown against Castle. Photo by Darryl Oumi/Special to the Star-Advertiser.
Moanalua defender Aukai Grace (4) picked off a Cameron Friel pass intended for Kailua receiver Raynen Ho-Mook (2) in the second quarter. Photo by Bruce Asato/Star-Advertiser.


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