In an alternate universe, perhaps June Jones would have been opening his second stint as the University of Hawaii’s head coach against California in Sydney, Australia, on Friday night.
Instead, Kapolei’s first-year offensive coordinator mentored quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa to victory in Kaneohe, leading the sophomore to another quality performance.
Tagovailoa finished 30-for-44 with 403 yards, three passing touchdowns and one interception, executing Jones’ run-and-shoot offense at a high level as the Hurricanes were 40-21 victors at Castle.
Tagovailoa recorded his third career game of at least 400 passing yards and holds the top five single-game passing performances in school history.
“He did some things that he didn’t do last week and keeps getting better,” Jones said. “I think he made some good decisions and we dropped a lot of balls again, unfortunately, but it was not his fault. He was putting them there. He was rushing things a little bit early but once he settled down, he was pretty accurate with the ball.”
Through four games, Tagovailoa has passed for 1,127 yards, 13 touchdowns and just two interceptions.
Tagovailoa set the tone for his offense the entire game and turned a corner on Kapolei’s last drive of the first half. He engineered an 80-yard drive, going 7-for-7 and finishing it off with a 10-yard pass to Jaymin Sarono.
“In the beginning, we kind of struggled. I had a lot to do with that,” Tagovailoa said. “Once we started clicking, everything started moving. We started moving the ball. Started getting points on the board. We just started focusing in. It was a good feeling.”
Sarono caught all three of Tagovailoa’s touchdown passes and finished with 10 receptions for 135 yards.
“It’s just a blessing, we work on it in the offseason,” Tagovailoa said. “Coach Jones is really loving the connection.”
Tagovailoa had his way with the Castle defense in last year’s matchup, passing for 534 yards. Although this year’s meeting between the two teams didn’t produce the same gaudy numbers, Castle coach Nelson Maeda recognized the challenge that he brought to his defense.
“They got talent at all positions. That quarterback had some laser throws tonight,” Maeda said. “He was on his throws, for sure.”
Kapolei coach Darren Hernandez added that “he’s only a sophomore and the guy is only gonna get better.”
Currently, Tagovailoa holds scholarship offers from Alabama, Hawaii and Utah. His brother, Saint Louis’ Tua Tagovailoa, is an Alabama commit.
While Taulia doesn’t know his college destination just yet, he and Jones know how he’ll get there.
“It’s the same as it is every week. Throw and catch the ball,” Jones said. “We don’t change what we do.”