From winless to wonderful: 2001 Roosevelt

Corey Higa was a dependable target for Roosevelt's turnaround team in 2001.
Corey Higa was a dependable target for Roosevelt’s turnaround team in 2001.

There are no meaningless games, as Chris Mols and other former Roosevelt players know all too well.

The Rough Riders of 2000 finished their season in the OIA Red winless and largely without hope, drawing unbeaten Waianae in the last game of the year.

Roosevelt had been shut out five times in eight games before that and scored three touchdowns only once — two of them on defense — a 34-21 loss to Farrington.

The Rough Riders were predictably rolled by the Seariders, losing 38-3. But an inspired performance by quarterback Chris Mols signaled that the next year would be very, very different. Mols threw three picks in the blowout, but went 11-for-19 for 159 yards in relief of Kealii Oleole. It was Roosevelt’s best passing performance of the season in terms of yards.

Mols later threw a no-hitter in the state tournament for the Roosevelt baseball team, overmatching Kailua in the third-place game.

The Rough Riders moved out of the Red the next season, and Mols and his crew started the preseason with an encouraging 22-21 loss to Campbell when Mols’ two-point conversion with 20 seconds left was batted down. Mols finished with 293 yards, the most for a Roosevelt quarterback since Andrew Kamanao in 1992.

Mols and Roosevelt then won their next four games, with Mols throwing for 469 against Kaiser, 149 at Pearl City, 230 at Waialua and 252 against Nanakuli. Jansen Keomaka held down the limited running game, and Jerry Perreira, Shown Francis, Matthew Terukina and Corey Higa gave the quarterback a stable of reliable targets.

Perreira, Francis and Higa all had 100-yard games, with Perreira putting up 211 yards against the Cougars that is still the standard in program history. No receiver has had a 200-yard game before or since.

After a 27-22 loss to Waipahu, the first time the team had given up more than a touchdown in a game, Roosevelt reeled off two more blowout wins before rolling into the stadium for an OIA White showdown with unbeaten Aiea.

Na Alii won 37-14 to take the conference, and more importantly the top seed in the OIA playoffs. Roosevelt drew defending state champion (and nationally ranked at No. 15) Kahuku and used multiple trick plays to stay within 16 points with 11 minutes remaining before losing 42-18.

Roosevelt was punished for its success the next year, moving back to the OIA Red and going 3-5. It would not have another winning season until 2007 in the White, and that remains its last successful campaign. Lester Parilla was the coach of both teams.

But the memories of the turnaround team remain.

Mols was rewarded for his leadership by being named to the OIA White’s second team behind Lole Laolagi in all-star balloting, with offensive lineman Justin Popoalii the only offensive player named to the first team.

The defense, though, boasted of defensive back Jon Nakasone, linebacker Josh Kimsel and defensive lineman Samson Kahooilihala on the first team.

Other standouts for the Rough Riders that year included linebacker Liana Wong on the second team with Keomaka.

Perreira, Higa, Matt Terukina, Francis, Aaron Adam, Shane Matsuo, Kitto Bourngnrith, Bryson Borges, Brandon Loo, Mika Akamine, Hercules Kahooilihala, Kailio Coelho and Jonah Kahooilihala all received honorable mention.

Here is the complete roster for the Rough Riders: 20150910220428895


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