Two young quarterbacks thrown into the fire. Big-play guys emerging. Defensive fronts tested.
In so many ways, Kamehameha and Waianae sought similar victories in different places on the field Friday night at Raymond Torii Field. Kamehameha turned a 13-6 deficit into a 33-13 nonconference win, but there’s plenty of reason for optimism on both sidelines.
>> Boogie Nights
Sophomore Thomas “Boogie” Yam didn’t start the game, but that turned out to be a formality once senior Fatu Sua-Godinet switched to wide receiver. While Waianae did a stellar job of keying on Sua-Godinet, who had eye-opening summer as a pass catcher, Yan spread the wealth. His first four targets were all Sua-Godinet, who was corralled and limited to two catches for 5 yards. Though the speedy Sua-Godinet didn’t rack up big numbers — three receptions for 11 yards and his lone kick return was nullified by offsetting penalties — his presence was enough to give Yam and his other receivers opportunities.
Jaykob Cabunoc was targeted eight times by Yam and finished with four catches for 85 yards. Yam looked for RB Kanoa Shannon (one grab, 6 yards) and RB Koby Ford. The numbers for Yam were not prolific at 9-for-18, 147 yards. But his ability to scan the field is solid for a 10th grader, and the Seariders had no way to consistently cover Sua-Godinet and Kumoku Noa simultaneously.
>> Ultra 7
Noa was relatively quiet offensively with one catch for negative yardage in the first half. Yam looked for him twice more (incompletions) in the second half before the senior pulled in a 47-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter. Noa is a unique and devastating weapon for Kamehameha in his own right. Sua-Godinet will have great games; he’s just too physical and fast for most defensive backs. And Noa’s older brother, Kanawai, truly earned every bit of attention and accolades during a spectacular three-year career at Punahou. But Kumoku Noa had TDs on an 84-yard kick return and a 74-yard punt return to go with the TD catch.
Opposing kickers can’t really kick to Sua-Godinet without risk, but the option of kicking to Noa has probably been derailed after what we saw last night.
>> Six Killers.
Six sacks said it all about Kamehameha’s defense. Waianae coach Walter Young borrowed from the past and establishing momentum at the point of contact early. Ezkiah Moniz-Hopeau‘s 66-yard TD blast set the tone for the Seariders. But the Warriors clamped down, often putting eight in the box and testing Waianae, which continued to hand the ball off on first and second downs.
Young made his point abundantly clear. He’s trusting that massive offensive line through thick and thin. I’m pretty sure his O-linemen weren’t surprised, and they know what will continue to be dialed up. Waianae ran the ball 16 times in the first half for 77 yards.
The second half: 23 rushes for 53 yards. All those third-and-longs set up the Warriors’ pass rush. Alema Kapoi had two sacks, and Nakoa Pauole and Andrew Aleki (1.5 sacks each) were tenacious from the start. Matthew Aio had a sack, and Wesley Faagau (half sack) were also busy getting after Waianae QB Jaren Ulu.
>> Ulu, food of life
The 5-foot-11, 155-pound junior gets a thumbs up for staying poised against one of the state’s top defensive units. (Kamehameha has eight returning starters on either side of the ball.) Ulu rarely got an advantage as a passer; the Seariders scarcely called many first- or second-down passing plays until the second half, and even then that was limited.
Ulu completed nine of his 20 attempts for 106 yards. Like his counterpart, Yam, he didn’t throw a pick and didn’t fumble at all. What was fun to see was the way Ulu improved from one series to the next, learning to pick up on Kamehameha’s pass-rushing tendencies the best he could. He took his licks, of course, but also got creative and maneuvered out of bull-rush scenarios to scramble for yardage or find open receivers.
He took every snap, indicating that Coach Young and his staff are all in with the talented slinger. Ulu targeted eight different teammates, and some of the backups looked impressive in the second half. No doubt junior WR Isaiah Freeney (three catches, 63 yards, seven targets) has potential. One of the reserves who stepped up in the final quarter is 6-foot junior Jeresalem Tootoo, who was targeted four times in the second half (two catches, 22 yards).
It was an intriguing matchup and Searider fans went home disappointed, but they have reason for optimism. Their young team will only get better, and getting a tough test in Week 1 will likely prove to be a blessing in disguise.
>> Rumblin’ running backs
Last week, Warriors coach Doug Cosbie noted that his team had a number of good, quality “high school running backs”. True enough. But whether the NFL veteran meant to challenge his backs or not, they ran with a furious anger against the Seariders.
Jordan Baduyan, who had a solid junior season in 2014 after Kaulana Apelu suffered an injury early on, was in beast mode with 54 yards on just seven carries. The numbers are modest, but he would’ve probably cracked the 100-yard mark if he had played in the second half. More than that, Baduyan (5-9, 180) ripped through tackles at times and his acceleration once he hit the second level was scary fast.
Same with Shannon, a sophomore who ran much bigger than his vitals (5-7, 155) show. He tallied 53 yards on six carries, including gains of 13, 16 and 16 yards.
Kamehameha’s O-line did the job. The Warriors rushed 37 times for 169 yards (4.6 per attempt), using their spread formation with the occasional jet man in motion.
It was an impressive debut to the ’15 season for Kamehameha, a lot of the old blending with the new.
>> Sua thing
This is what makes Kamehameha’s offense mind-blowing: Sua-Godinet had one carry for 3 yards along with the three grabs for 11 yards, and he didn’t record a single yard as a kick returner — and yet the Warriors were productive. Cohesive.
Whatever fans make of offseason chatter about transfers and position changes, Kamehameha has found a way to utilize the versatile Sua-Godinet. I’m willing to predict that for every game like this (14 all-purpose yards), he’ll produce at least two games of at least 150 all-purpose yards (rushing, receiving, kick returns, interception returns). Even when he doesn’t play the role of go-to target, defenses have to respect him, and that can be an offensive coordinator’s favorite gift.