Junior Mason Yoshino was part of the Kaiser football team in 2017. It was pretty much a lost year.
This season, Yoshino is beaming with pride at the team’s 5-0 start that included Saturday night’s 34-10 blitzing of Kalani.
There’s a long, long way to go, and a lot of learning to do — as coach Tim Seaman is super quick to point out.
Despite the quick start, there shouldn’t be any illusions that this is a reincarnation of the 2013 squad that won the Division II state championship.
But Yoshino can dream, right? It just so happens that he revered that team six years ago, when he was an elementary school student.
“I used to come out and watch them every Friday,” he said. “They were my idols. They honestly brought my spirit and my love for the game out.”
And with five straight wins, it’s like Yoshino has hit a bit of a jackpot — after the team canceled most of its schedule two seasons ago, mostly due to a toxic atmosphere that came to a head when a parent assaulted Arnold Martinez, the head coach at the time.
In Saturday’s win over the Falcons, Yoshino caught seven passes from his freshman brother Easton Yoshino. One of those grabs was for a 1-yard touchdown, and that was one of three scoring passes thrown by the ninth-grader who now has 768 passing yards and 10 TD passes in the five contests.
“He gets it done,” Mason said about Easton, who went 21-for-29 for 235 yards and three TDs against Kalani. “But the linemen are doing their job blocking for him. Honestly, it’s a team effort. We’ve been playing since we were young … with the Hawaii Kai Dolphins … and our dad has trained us and stays on top of us with grades, too.
“Freshman year (in 2017), that was really hard with everything that happened to us. Now, we have a strong bond, we’re working together, practicing hard, and the coaches are pushing us. It’s honestly a team thing. Coach (Seaman) wants us to focus on the week ahead, that game. Not thinking past that.”
The next game is a biggie. Kaimuki (4-1, 3-0 OIA D-II) comes to Kaiser Stadium to play the Cougars (5-0, 3-0) on Friday. Both squads are contending with defending champion Roosevelt (4-0, 4-0) for the league crown.
After Saturday’s win, Seaman downplayed the accomplishment. There is too much at stake in the future to start being satisfied.
“The effort was good,” he said. “We made a lot of mistakes. I like that we played hard. But we’ve got to clean up a lot of things. The team we’re facing next (Kaimuki) is very talented and we need to get better. There’s times when we make plays, but we lack consistency right now.”
Consistency, Seaman pointed out, is needed in the big games.
Two Kaiser players — Jesse Stroede and Cavin Lime — had immense two-way outings against Kalani.
Stroede locked down his opponents from his spot in the defensive backfield and picked off one pass. On offense, he caught seven passes for 102 yards and a touchdown.
“Jesse is a guy with just a great attitude,” Seaman said. “He goes hard. He makes a lot of plays on offense, defense and special teams. Cavin (the team’s leading rusher) has done a great job. Defensively, he’s all over the field. We’re really pleased with his progress. He played a lot as a sophomore, but he’s really stepped up his game.”
Brock Perreira, the Cougars’ backup quarterback, fired a touchdown strike on his first throw Saturday night. But it was called back on a penalty. Later on, he found Stroede with a fourth-quarter, 14-yard TD pass.
“Easton continues to go through the growth process,” Seaman said. “The guys are competing in practice. Easton is doing good, but Brock came in and looked good tonight. They will continue to compete. We need to get consistent in all areas (of the passing game). The quarterback is the product of those around him. We’ve got to make sure the protection is tight and the receivers are running the correct routes.”
The next two weeks promise to be interesting in the OIA D-II race.
After playing against Kaimuki this Friday, the Cougars host Waialua (2-3, 1-2) on Sept. 27. That same night, Kaimuki plays the Roosevelt at Skippa Diaz Stadium.
The following week could shape up to be pivotal as well. On Oct. 4, Kaiser travels into town to play the Rough Riders.