Alakai Yuen wore his Moanalua helmet, but it was hard to tell. Before the game, he put stickers with the Kahuku, Punahou and Waialua logos on it.
The Moanalua quarterback will be back for his senior year next season, and you can tell he was soaking in as much knowledge as possible on Thursday night while playing with teammates from all over the island in the second game of the Junior Prep Sports Paradise Football Classic at Aloha Stadium.
Yuen played wide receiver and got in some late-game action at QB as the backup to Punahou standout Ephraim Tuliloa for the Hawaii East squad.
“It was like playing against your family,” Yuen said. “We got to play one more game.”
Actually, it will be two games. Even though his East team lost 21-7, it’ll be playing against a California All-Star team on Saturday in Halawa. The winning Hawaii West team will play in Saturday’s championship game against American Samoa, which stopped California 14-7 in Thursday’s opener.
Like family. That’s what he said.
Others spoke about getting to know their foes so much better during practices, the game and while rooming together this week in Waikiki.
Tainoa Foster, the Kamehameha linebacker who is being recruited by four Division I colleges, had a big game for the East in which he showcased his closing speed, aggressiveness and tackling ability in addition to causing two fumbles.
“It was a great opportunity to come out and keep the grind on,” Foster said. “I didn’t expect I would be getting to know so many players from schools like (state champion) Kahuku. Now, it’s like I can call them brothers. (Kahuku lineman) Taimane Wily-Matagi is hilarious. We teased him about how he looks like (“Lost” actor Jorge Garcia). And (Mililani receiver) Kalakaua Timoteo showed why he is one of the top recruits.”
Timoteo, who will play for Hawaii in the fall, caught two touchdown passes, including one from Saint Louis quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, the highly recruited senior to be, in a winning cause for Hawaii West. One TD appeared to be a catch out of bounds. The other was on a fade route against Kamehameha defensive back Akili Gray, who was shaken up on the play and received medical attention from trainers.
Matt Sumstine, the head of football officials for the Hawaii High School Athletic Association, was not on duty and not near the play so he did not see the controversial touchdown play up close. He did, however, hear that one TV station’s news broadcast showed Timoteo was in bounds. On the stadium Jumbotron replay, it appeared Timoteo was out of bounds on the pass from Kapolei’s Taulia Tagovailoa, Tua Tagovailoa’s younger brother.
But, we’re getting technical here —— about an All-Star game that was pretty casual for the most part. Well, even a smiling Nelson Maeda, the Castle head coach and a coach for the East, took it seriously enough to get an explanation from the head referee, who told him it was the back judge’s call and it couldn’t be overturned.
Timoteo, who has been the recipient of numerous beautiful McKenzie Milton touchdown passes the past two seasons for the Trojans, spoke glowingly about Tagovailoa.
“He has a ridiculous arm,” Timoteo said. “On one (long-bomb) play I was slowing down because I didn’t think he could reach me and then I had to speed up and (couldn’t get to it). It was off his back foot, it was a cannon and it was 60 yards. He’s going to be somebody playing in the SEC or Pac-12.”
Timoteo also got some words in about his shoes —— the gold high-tops.
“I got them from East Bay,” he said. “They’re Golden Cams (named after Cam Newton).”
Timoteo also mentioned that he doesn’t use the ankle strap, which he lets hang off the back instead of attaching it to his leg in the front the way it was designed to work.
“Those are my wings,” he added.
Back to Gray for a moment. He scored the East’s only touchdown on a 61-yard interception return.
Kaimana Padello was his usual sack-happy self. The Mililani defensive end had one sack of Tuliloa and a tackle for loss on Kahuku running back Sefa Ameperosa. After the game, Leilehua head coach Nolan Tokuda walked past Padello and said, “This guy should be playing in college somewhere next year.”
Padello said he is thinking about walking on at Hawaii. He has also made a ton of friends during this week’s experience.
“It’s been amazing,” he said. “I got to know (linebacker) Andrew Aneki of Farrington. He’s super cool. I also got real close with (Kailua left tackle) Nilsson Gaisoa, who I had a lot of battles with during the season. He knows how to work his hands and lock you. We got real close, chilling in the room.”
There were some other big plays in the game:
>> Wily-Matagi recovered a Tagovailoa fumble in the East end zone after a Foster hit at the 1 when the game was scoreless in the first quarter.
>> McKinley’s Dillon Enriquez, who had no idea he was going to be playing in the postseason after the Tigers’ winless campaign, sacked Tagovailoa once.
>> Kailua’s Martin Tigilau scored one of the West’s touchdowns on a 15-yard pass from a scrambling Tagovailoa.
>> Waianae’s Ikaika Pa‘ao‘ao-Ahina recovered a fumble before halftime after a hit by Foster.
>> Saint Louis defensive lineman Tanielu Evaimalu had a sack of Tuliloa.
>> Foster intercepted a pass. Haha. But it was just a pass from an opposing receiver, who was tossing the ball to a referee from out of bounds after an incomplete pass. Foster, however, went with it and pretended to start running toward the end zone before giving the ball to the official.
>> Kalaheo’s John Tuitupou made an open-field leg tackle of Tagovailoa, preventing a long gain.
>> Kahuku’s Stokes Botelho, a Honolulu Star-Advertiser first-team cornerback, returned a punt 27 yards to set up what could have been a tying touchdown late in the third quarter with the West leading 14-7. A few plays later with the ball at the 4, a bad snap sailed over Tuliloa’s head for a loss of 28 yards, ending the threat for all intents and purposes. Timoteo’s second TD catch, the fade, sealed the win in the fourth quarter.
>> St. Francis’ Isaac Chrichton intercepted a fourth-quarter Tuliloa pass.
>> Farrington running back Challen Faamatau connected on a pass to Mililani’s Rico Sallas to set up Tagovailoa’s final TD toss to Timoteo.