Marcus Mariota made Hawaii one of the hotbeds for college quarterbacks, and Kaimi Fairbairn might have done the same for the kicking game.
Fairbairn, a former Punahou kicker who is breaking records at UCLA, got his first taste of the big game in the 2011 title tilt. Now, it is Kekoa Sasaoka‘s turn.
The Kahuku booter might be the biggest offensive weapon for the Red Raiders this season, controlling field position with his soaring punts and turning every trip inside the 30 into panic mode for the defense.
Kicking used to be the forgotten part of football practice, with coaches asking for starters who have played soccer and giving them the kicking job to work on by themselves because practice time needed to be spent at their regular positions. It’s not like that any more, thanks to camps like Chris Sailer‘s kicking school.
The kicking guru ranks all of the best kickers in the nation and calls Sasaoka the ninth-best kicker in his class in the country and tops in Hawaii ahead of Punahou’s Jet Toner. All Toner, who is pledged to Stanford, did last year is boot the Buffanblu into the state final and then convert from 53 yards once he got there.
Sasaoka’s counterpart, Jacob Tobias of Saint Louis, does not appear on Sailer’s rankings but Crusaders slotback Noah Alejado does. Tobias, a sophomore who has presumably never been rated by Sailer’s people, was true on eight extra points last week against Mililani and has kicked four field goals this year.
Only Sasaoka and Toner appear on the rankings for the class of 2016 but the future is very bright behind them. Kamehameha’s Adam Stack is judged the top kicker in the nation among juniors, followed in Hawaii by Alejado (25th), Jeffrey Chan of Punahou (40th), Evan Minami of Iolani (113th) and Kamehameha’s Micah Mizo (114th).
Four more kickers from Hawaii on on the 2018 rankings with two selected as “future stars.”
In the history of the Prep Bowl (1973-1998), there were four made field goals and none of them longer than 30 yards. Since the state tournament began in 1999, there have been 25 made field goals, 12 of them over 31 yards. Part of that has to do with two title games each year, but there is no denying that the field goal is a weapon like it never was.
The prep bowl went a decade without a single made kick before Leilehua’s Edward Edra drilled one from 30 yards in 1984, and there was not another one for five years after that.
Even the extra-point try has evolved, with kickers putting it through nearly 90 percent of the time for the last two decades after the woeful 1990s when the chances of tacking one on was almost 70 percent.
Interestingly, Division II kickers have converted more of their extra point tries than their Division I counterparts, counting it good 93 percent of the time compared to the 89 percent for kickers in the main event. A lot of that might have to do with the Iolani dynasty and Wendell Look‘s ability to squeeze every point possible out of his boys (and occasionally, girls).
Here is a handy list of all made field goals in state championship games, including Prep Bowls:
2014: 2, Jet Toner 53 yards, Keoni Kordell Makekau, 42
2013: 1, Matt Sai, 30
2011: 5, Kaimi Fairbairn 25, Kekahu Aluli 38; Jordan Lee, 22, 32
2010: 1, Aaron Goo 40
2009: 2, Shea Shimabukuro, 40; Andrew Skalman 28
2008: 1, Robert Izuta, 29
2007: 1, Warren Spencer 32
2005: 4, Kody Adams 30, 21; Jamie Whitworth 26, 20
2004: 1, Brandon Puckett, 37
2003: 4, CJ Santiago 37, 26, 36, 36
2002: 3, Ethan Gonsalves 25, 36, 32
1993: 1 Keun Park 26
1991: 1, Elden Benito 19
1990: 1, Malo Richards 30
1984: 1, Edward Edra 30
Extra Point kick percentages by decade:
70s: 56 percent (15-27)
80s: 89 percent (40-45)
90s: 68 percent (25-37)
00s: 88 percent (40-48)
10s: 89 percent (62-69)