There weren’t a whole heck of a lot of bright spots for numbers-challenged Kalaheo in its season-opening 7-0 loss to visiting Kauai High at Kailuas Alex Kane Stadium on Friday night.
Really, THE bright spot was two-way senior standout Jordan Neufeldt. Neufeldt, a 6-foot-3 linebacker/tight end, made plays both ways for the Mustangs, who sought — unsuccessfully — to snap a run of losses in openers going back to 2012.
Coach Darrell Poole glowed about Neufeldt before and after the game.
“He’s going to be a major factor for us on our team. This guy is a Division I player,” Poole said. “No matter where we put him on the field, he’s going to make plays. He’s going to be a major factor on both sides of the ball, offense and defense. We look forward to him having a great senior season this year and some eyes to open up and say, ‘hey, who is this kid over here at Kalaheo?’ I hope it does happen for him.”
He looked the part of a D-I talent Friday. He intercepted Kauai starting quarterback Awe Parangao on the Red Raiders’ opening series when Parangao was thinking end zone over the middle.
“We got hyped after that taste,” Neufeldt said. On the Red Raiders’ next drive, it was Riis Webber’s turn to pick off Parangao as he looked deep.
“Everyone tried their best. We had freshmen as linemen, because we had people on (academic probation),” Neufeldt said. “People had to step up, and they did. Our defense was solid, but our offense needs to (improve).”
Interestingly, he said he prefers playing defense to offense.
“We just need to push hard and try our best, every play, all 11 to the ball, the whole defense,” he said.
Offensively, he caught three balls for 89 yards, including a 38-yard catch-and-run in the third quarter. Sophomore quarterback Isaiah Akiu looked to go right back to him, but Neufeldt was defended well that time and Kalaheo’s drive stalled.
The OIA Division II Mustangs often struggle to be noticed and have played “home” games at crosstown Kailua High for years. They might make their actual home debut on campus later this season.
Neufeldt has quietly been productive for a while.
He caught a pass in all 10 games last season. He had team highs of 26 receptions and 249 yards receiving, with one score. As a sophomore, he had a team-high 12 grabs for 159 yards and a TD.
Kalaheo narrowly missed out on the OIA Division II playoffs last year with a 3-4 league record. If the blue-and-orange squad from the Windward side intends to rectify that this season, it’s likely Neufeldt will play a large part in it.