Kapolei suffered a huge, at least somewhat unexpected, loss with record-setting quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa’s departure to Alabama earlier this year to be closer to his brother, Tua.
Taulia posted incredible numbers as a freshman and sophomore and seemed well on his way to the greatest statistical career for a quarterback in Hawaii high school history. And it wasn’t just all numbers: Tagovailoa led Kapolei to a win over Punahou in the state tournament’s open division semifinals last year.
But coach Darren Hernandez and others are impressed with Kaniala “Ala” Kalaola, a recent addition who will likely start at quarterback. He is a junior transfer from Saint Louis who can play right away.
“Last year he beat out six guys to be the starting quarterback for Saint Louis JV,” Hernandez said of the 6-foot, 175-pounder whose older brother played at Kapolei. “He has a quick release, he’s very accurate, he’s a good runner, athlete and has a good head on his shoulders.”
Kalaola had worked out for just three days with a group of Kapolei players before he led them to third place in a 7-on-7 pylon tournament at Farrington two weeks ago.
“There were a lot of stacked teams in that tournament,” Hernandez said.
Prior to the arrival of Kalaola, Hernandez tried 6-foot-5, 230-pound defensive end Kukea Emmsley and Nainoa Fong (last year’s third-string varsity QB) behind center.
“But, to be frank, you don’t replace a talent like Taulia, a kid who threw 42 touchdown passes last year,” Hernandez said.
June Jones, who was Kapolei’s offensive coordinator, left for an administrative job at Saint Louis, and has been replaced by former Campbell head coach Amosa Amosa.
Quarterbacks coach Andrew Manley and receivers coach Ricky Lumford have also left, to be offensive coordinators; Manley at his alma mater, Leilehua, and Lumford at Castle.
Taulia Tagovailoa, who has a scholarship offer from Alabama, will play at Thompson High in Alabaster, Ala. In his two seasons at Kapolei, he passed for 6,703 yards and 64 touchdowns.