What was shaping up to be the greatest season ever for Moanalua Na Menehune came to a crashing halt against Castle on Saturday night, but the performances will make sure this team is remembered for a long time.
Na Menehune went undefeated through the regular season and finished with eight wins, more than any since Arnold Martinez took the squad to a 10-2 season in 2009 in Division II.
The team was dramatically improved on both sides of the ball, averaging 34.2 points per game and allowing only 14.6. Last year, in Savaii Eselu‘s second season at the helm, Na Menehune limped to 13.6 ppg and 35.9 papg. Their 19.6 average margin of victory make this the best Moanalua team in school history. The previous high was 11.1 by the 2009 Martinez team.
The defense held opponents to their lowest average since the dark ages of 1988 when Donald Ng‘s defenses held opponents to 13 points per game in a league where games averaged 30 points per game. That number passed 50 five years ago and has not dropped below it.
2018 TOP PERFORMANCES
The legend of Nick Au grew as the season went on but came crashing down on the rail around Castle’s track. Au finished the season with 2,502 yards and 29 touchdowns and was expected to build on those numbers in a deep run through the OIA playoffs and states. Considering Au averaged 292.5 passing yards per game before the Castle upset, he was two or three games away from joining the nine other quarterbacks in Hawaii prep history to exceed 3,000 yards in a season. Au’s best game came in the last regular season tilt against Nanakuli, when he went 13-for-18 for 385 yards and seven touchdowns before calling it a night. That was the seventh-best yardage game in school history and he also had No. 8 with 375 yards in a win over Castle to open the season.
Na Menehune had no use for the running game during their historic season, with Lawsen Lee leading all rushers with 87 yards on 28 carries and only Rudy Kealohi joining him with more than 20 carries. Moanalua scored only two rushing touchdowns all year, by Kealohi and Makana Spencer, and one of those came in the frantic final quarter of the loss to Castle after Au left. Spencer had the top rushing game of the season in a visit to Leilehua, toting the ball five times (after not carrying it at all in the previous two games) for 63 yards and a touchdown. It is the second year in a row that Moanalua has failed to have a player rush for more than 75 yards, and Na Menehune have not had anyone tap the century mark since Michael Feliciano in 2015 before Eselu’s offense took hold.
With Au slinging the ball all over the lot, it is only natural that Moanalua had an elite list of receivers. Kealohi led the way with 59 catches for 616 yards and three touchdowns, but he was hardly alone. Ezra Grace broke the plane eight times to lead the team and three other receivers (Javon Monico, CJ Paleafei and Drayden Von Oelhoffen) exceeded 250 yards. Au spread the ball around enough that there were no monster games from his receivers, but Grace had the closest thing to one. He caught 10 passes for 143 yards and two touchdowns against Kailua, his only 100-plus game of the season. Twelve receivers caught passes this season, with four of them going over 100 yards at least once, the first time in school history they have spread the wealth around like that.
Something special happened to Moanalua’s defense when Hurricane Lane came and left. Na Menehune allowed 62 points in two games before the rains came, and 69 in the seven games after that. The defense’s only shutout came at the end of September against Radford, a mercy-rule killing that forced Rams QB Hunter Copp into six interceptions, including a pick-six by Keanu Kekaha and two more interceptions by Tre Barrett. Copp was forced into the nightmare because of Moanalua’s relentless pressure, hitting him nine times and stuffing the Rams into just two rushing yards. It was Moanalua’s third shutout under Eselu among games played on the field (29). It took the program’s all-time winningest coach, Arnold Martinez, 49 games to have as many shutouts.
>> Savai’i Eselu is 17-14 in three seasons.
>> QB Nick Au led Division I in passing yards.
>> WR Ezra Grace finished fifth in Division I in receiving yards.
>> WR Rudy Kealohi finished sixth in Division I in receiving yards.
KEY UNDERCLASSMEN IN 2018
>> SB/QB Rudy Kealohi, LB Micah Kim, WR CJ Paleafei, RB/SB Lawsen Lee.
FINAL TEAM STATS
|Drayden Von Oelhoffen||9||3||-8||0|
|Drayden Von Oelhoffen||9||30||274||6|