It’s not common for a team that’s rolling along with a 5-1 record (4-1 in league play) to wonder, could there be more?
The Kapolei Hurricanes are, so to speak, in a calm before the storm. With the return of some key players from injury — three of them on offense who hadn’t played a snap of regular-season football until Friday night — their explosive offense is suddenly in a bit of a reboot.
It’s not an overhaul by any means, of course. Taulia Tagovailoa was solid and skilled in a 34-20 win over Kailua. He completed 26 of 40 pass attempts for 388 yards — a whopping 9.7 yards per attempt — and three touchdowns with one pick. Two receivers, Jaymin Sarono and Wyatt Perez, had more than 100 receiving yards each. Sarono finished with nine receptions and 143 yards plus a TD, while Perez had 118 yards on seven grabs and a TD. Perez also had a game-sealing 51-yard haul to set up the final TD that put Kapolei out of reach for the visiting Surfriders.
“Their game plan was to slow it down, try to establish a rhythm on offense. They came out of the huddle slow,” Hurricanes coach Darren Hernandez said.
Kapolei generated 477 yards of total offense, but in the midst of all those passes, Kapolei went four possessions in a row without scoring during the second half. That’s not unusual for a lot of good teams, but the ‘Canes have the state’s leader in passing yardage and passing TDs. They have one of the premier offensive minds in OC June Jones. Much is expected.
“We had a lot of yards, but nobody’s going to give you a title for yards. Kailua came up with big plays, especially on special teams, with that kickoff return (for a TD). We didn’t play our best game, but we pulled it out in the end,” Hernandez said.
In the midst of the struggle, as Kailua whittled a 20-point lead down to seven, Kapolei found ways to get their guys who have rehabbed from injury on the field. Running back Antoneo Brown, a 5-foot-11, 285-pound junior, scored the game-clinching TD and finished with 26 yards on three carries. Filipo-Brown runs a 5-flat 40-yard dash, and he’s one of the handful of injured players that Hernandez has waited patiently to return.
Receivers Marquis Montgomery and Tamatoa Mokiao-Atimalala pitched in with big catches during the first half. Montgomery is a 6-3, 180-pound junior with hops, a figure who is substantially different from the rest of the receiving corps. Mokiao-Atimalala, a 5-8, 160-pound freshman, is a blur.
Kapolei’s pass-catching corps already had talent and depth, and Montgomery and Mokiao-Atimalala simply add more to it. With Filipo-Brown complementing John Kansana (43 yards, TD) and Leighton Rosa (33 yards), Kapolei suddenly has much more depth and weaponry. It’s almost… too much?
It’s a good problem that Hernandez, Jones and the staff will sort out.
“These guys are just coming back,” Hernandez said. “Hopefully, we can get those guys in the mix and up to speed. They helped us. We’ve got to keep them healthy and in shape. I’m excited. We’ve got a lot of weapons, but we’ve got to produce points, not just yards.”
Kailua had a lot to do with it. The Surfriders got a decent pass rush on Tagovailoa, though there was only sack — by all-state DE Christian Mejia. Kapolei opted to be conservative with the passing game in the late going. It was ball-control passing, while the ground attack was effective. Kansana, Rosa and Brown combined for 102 rushing yards on 15 carries — 6.8 yards per attempt.
“In the second quarter, we played really good football. We did not string together four quarters by any stretch. We’ve got Farrington next week and that’s going to be for first place,” Hernandez said.
(Note: Corrections to the Kapolei roster on Saturday, Sept. 17 revealed a slight change to Brown’s last name, and that he is a junior, not a senior.)