With roster numbers perpetually hovering in the high teens to low 30’s during David Tautofi’s tenure at Kaimuki, the Bulldogs have relied on a quality over quantity approach.
That philosophy has churned out Sama Paama, who starred for the Bulldogs as a two-way lineman before signing with Washington, where he is a freshman this fall.
This year, the quality seems to reside in the backfield, where quarterback Jayden Maiava and running back Naomas Asuega-Fualaau combine to form one of the most talented 1-2 punches in the state, regardless of division. The duo made their mark in a 37-0 win over Kalaheo on Friday night, moving the Bulldogs to 2-0 overall this season and 1-0 on OIA Division II play.
Asuega-Fualaau made his presence felt early, rushing for three touchdowns in the second quarter to give Kaimuki a 27-0 lead at halftime.
“My linemen were working hard which made it easier for me,” he said. “They got their blocks in and it opened up the holes for me.”
Asuega-Fualaau finished with 12 carries for 90 yards. He only carried the ball twice in the second half against the Mustangs at Farrington’s Skippa Diaz Stadium due in part to the massive lead he helped build.
“Oh, man. That guy is a stud,” Maiava said. “Every time I give him the ball, it’s 5 or more yards every time. It’s good to have him in the backfield with me.”
Asuega-Fualaau has been a fixture in the Kaimuki backfield since he was a sophomore. As a junior, he carried the ball 165 times for 979 yards and 14 touchdowns.
“He’s one of those exceptional, once-in-a-lifetime players as well,” Tautofi said. “He kind of reminds me of Waipahu’s running back, Alfred (Failauga). They don’t get tired.
“It’s good for us because it opens up a whole mess of things for defenses to have to worry about. It’s a blessing to have him and we’re gonna utilize him while we have him.”
Maiava, just a sophomore, is playing his first season for the Bulldogs after moving to Oahu from Las Vegas. Early offers from Auburn and Tennessee are justified just from watching the sturdy, 6-foot-4 gunslinger warm up.
Just a handful of years removed from being Kaimuki’s waterboy, Maiava throws an effortless deep ball and can escape with his feet. Despite facing pressure in the pocket, Maiava wasn’t sacked against the Mustangs and ran the ball twice for 19 yards.
Maiava’s first pass attempt on Friday night was a 20-yard touchdown to Kaulana Kaluna on third-and-14, a perfectly placed ball that only Kaluna could get. In total, he completed 12 of his 19 passes for 161 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
“It’s good to get a ‘W’ and leave the stadium with a ‘W,’ but we’re not satisfied with that and there’s a lot to work on,” he said. “Coming into this next week, we just wanna prepare for ‘Iolani.”
Tautofi says he’s not looking at the numbers when evaluating Maiava’s progression. When a young quarterback has a skill-set as vast and a ceiling as high as Maiava’s, it may not be as easy to play within himself and his team. Against Kalaheo, Tautofi said Maiava’s composure is what stood out.
“He’s starting to mature and grow up. He’s realizing that it’s not about the stats, but bringing up the guys along with him to be in a position to win,” Tautofi said. “For him, it doesn’t matter to him what the stats are, what matters is if he was able to win a championship as a sophomore. Maturity-wise, he’s going up from the last game and controlling the game.”
As Maiava previously mentioned, the Bulldogs face potentially their toughest opponent next Saturday when they make a quick trip to Division I contender ‘Iolani for the Father Bray Classic. No team would complain about a 2-0 start, but Tautofi knows the competition will get taken up a notch when they step on the Raiders’ field.
“You practice five days a week to play one hour of football, you know? It feels good because there’s so much you put into a game like this but we’re also not satisfied because there’s a lot of things that we could have done better,” he said after the Kalaheo win. “We really shot ourselves in the foot with penalties today and that’s not acceptable, especially since we’re trying to put ourselves in position to get into the championship as well.
“There’s a lot of things mentally that we gotta get better at, especially next up with ‘Iolani. They’ll expose us with those little things. We’ll get back to the board next week and get ready for ‘Iolani.”