Hit on Moanalua’s RJ Javar a teaching moment on how not to tackle

Moanalua quarterback RJ Javar was loaded onto a stretcher and into an ambulance after taking a hit to the head during the second quarter of the OIA Division I title game on Saturday at Aloha Stadium. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.

RJ Javar scored a touchdown and then went to the hospital in an ambulance in the second quarter of Saturday’s OIA Division I title game at Aloha Stadium.

The Moanalua quarterback got just inside the pylon to give Na Menehune a 14-0 lead in what turned out to be a 21-20, double-overtime victory.

It was a scary thing for those watching live and on TV, though, when Javar was knocked out by a helmet-to-helmet blow on the play. As he landed on his back, his arm stayed stiff, and he quickly received medical attention.

Javar is recovering from the blow as well as can be expected, according to Moanalua athletic director Joel Kawachi.

TV replays clearly show the defensive player lowering his head and making contact with Javar’s head.

In this era of safety-first football, the play is a teaching moment on how not to make a tackle.

“There are a number of things wrong with this (play),” said Matt Sumstine, the Hawaii High School Athletic Association’s head of officials for the state tournament who also has an instructional website for officials’ use across the nation.

“The onus is on the defense to avoid contact to the head or neck area, especially when they’re down-tracking,” Sumstine added after watching the TV replay for the first time Monday. “You can see the quarterback trying to get lower and reaching for the goal line. As a defender, when you lower your head, you are no longer aware of what your target is going to be. You know you are in the vicinity (only) and you’re putting yourself and your opponent in danger. Statistically, in this case, the defender is in greater danger than the opponent. We call this illegal tracking, when you’re getting your head to the lowest point to initiate contact with the crown of the helmet. That’s very dangerous to both players.”

In addition, Sumstine thought the quarterback was in a sliding posture and mentioned that once that happens, an already committed defender can still try to make a stop, but that forceful contact to the head or neck area is off-limits.

Sumstine added that that the player’s intent is not an issue here.

“I wouldn’t villanize the player for intent,” he said. “But it is totally wrong technique. You hate to kick a kid out on technique, but it has to take precedence over intent. You can teach technique. If you use dangerous technique, you can’t play. The game is not intended to be played to hurt people. He was disqualified because the quarterback was defenseless, it was helmet to helmet and it was forceful in nature.”

Sumstine sent a link of a video to coaches around the state earlier this year with information about what constitutes what he calls a “blind strike” and targeting as well as proper tackling technique and what makes a player defenseless in certain situations.

Readers can watch that video here.

Also earlier this year, Sumstine made an in-person presentation on the subject for officials on Kauai, the Big Island and Maui.

NOTE: This story was edited to clarify information regarding sliding quaterbacks.


  1. Simple Simon October 29, 2019 3:27 pm

    What I saw was the defensive player started downward before the QB started going downward. Did I see that correct?

  2. ILH October 29, 2019 3:37 pm

    Is there a mechanism in place to evaluate and grade the refs??

    They are the only show in town, so how do we insure that we get the best out of them all the time?

    Just some thoughts on how we can keep them accountable.

  3. Kimo October 29, 2019 8:32 pm

    @ Simple simon that is what I saw. If the QB runs it in it’s a good play. DB went for the legs and QB went in low for the TD. Thank god Javar is ok and hopefully he can return soon. I believe that it was just one of those plays. Maybe they should not allow the offense to go in low or headfirst for TDs. I don’t know if I worded this right.

  4. 96730to89 October 30, 2019 7:45 am

    @Kimo I get what you’re saying and I agree. At all levels they place all the blame on the defense, but all runners with the ball lower their heads to get extra yards. A double standard. It needs to go both ways.

  5. Kalani October 30, 2019 4:52 pm

    So did no one see on the replay that the defensive player deflected off his own teammate while trying to make a play on the ball. He was on the way down and like the article says the defensive player once at that point can no longer be aware of what his target will be. They were both making a hard play. Glad to hear the Qb will be okay but it also sucks to hear that the defensive player need to be penalized for something that in that moment he could not do anything about the hit.

  6. Be Fair October 31, 2019 7:04 am

    Because I’m not one of the big guys on the field, when I tackle i go to hit between the knees and hip region. So on a tackle, if the runner stays upright then all is good. The problem with the current rule is that if I’m going for the tackle and the runner decides to get low too… then there is a high probability that our helmets may meet.
    If they are going to be so hard on the defense, they should make a rule for the offense to be fair. The rule should be that the runner should not lower his pads to meet the defender’s pad level. This will avoid helmet to helmet contact. If this happens… charge the penalty to the offensive runner.

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