Darnell Arceneaux has quite the brain for this game of football. The former Utah and Hawaiian Islanders quarterback is more than an offensive thinker, though. Balance has always been one of his priorities, and if that means meshing the X’s and O’s with renewed enthusiasm, so be it.
Across the recently redone turf at Saint Louis’ field, the former Mililani coach barks, encourages and corrects through an afternoon practice on Monday — the team’s first in full pads. It’s the first contact permitted — August 1 (Sunday) was the start date for hitting — and there’s a certain intensity in the air.
For Arceneaux, it’s a second stint as head coach at his alma mater. He led Saint Louis to the state final in 2003, only to lose 27-26 to Kahuku.
“It’s a new beginning for everybody. As a coach and an assistant AD, I felt like I want to be part of the solution,” he said. “As I get older, I want to leave something here on earth, to help renew our athletic program and develop our student programs.”
The Crusaders went to work with a rededicated sense of perseverance.
“It’s a changing experience,” left tackle Houston Clemente said. “Mentally and physically.”
Clemente noted the summer conditioning program that had Crusaders on the varsity and JV level hitting the weight room and track from the start of June. Arceneaux’s brother, former Saint Louis and Utah receiver Anthony Arceneaux, is the point man for all things athletic now. Five days a week, the Saints were in sweat-equity mode.
Add work ethic to the mother lode of potential in the program, and it is difficult for fans to quell the hype. The players know what they’ve got, but they’re confident in a quiet way. The adjustment off the field is mirrored by the one on it. Marcus Mariota is the new starting quarterback, while reliable cogs like receiver Jordan Fukumoto have graduated. That leaves Duke Bukoski, an all-state third-team selection, at the head of a receiving corps that is deep, if relatively unproven.
“We haven’t made big changes, but it’s a process,” Mariota said before practice on Monday.
Mariota, who committed to Oregon in May, spoke with new teammate Juda Parker before Parker decided to commit to Tennessee recently.
“We talked a lot about it. He committed on the spot,” Mariota said.
Interestingly enough, Oregon and Tennessee are in a home-and-home series. They meet this fall, and switch sites in two years. By then, Parker, a defensive end, could be chasing Mariota on the gridiron.
For Parker, it’s a big change from Word of Life, where he played virtually every down, to defense-only at Saint Louis.
“There’s more detail,” he said, grinning about the daily chase between offense and defense. “Marcus is fast once he hits his stride.”
Parker began playing at Word of Life as a gangly young athlete.
“Two left feet,” he said. “Word of Life definitely prepared me for the mental capacity of football and conditioning.”
Another Word of Life transfer, left guard Paulay Asiata, is getting used to a bigger crowd. Though Saint Louis isn’t a big school, it’s several times larger than WOLA, which had less than 200 enrolled in the high school before closing last spring.
“I miss Word of Life a lot. I miss the family I had there. I knew everyone,” Asiata said. “At Saint Louis, everyone’s getting closer. It’s all boys, so it’s easier. You can communicate.”
Asiata has nine scholarship offers, including one from Hawaii, but plans to wait rather than rush into a decision.
Paul Honda, Star-Advertiser