Kauai’s team bonding extends to season-opening win

Kalaheo quarterback Isaiah Akiu was sacked by Kauai's Bradshaw Sobleski (76), Kaisen Rapozo (66) and Brayden Gonzalves (69) at Kailua on Friday. / Photo by Darryl Oumi, Special to the Star-Advertiser

The Kauai High Red Raiders were happy campers a handful of days ago. They were smiling victors on Friday night.

Kauai went camping on campus in Lihue under second-year coach Jason Apilado last weekend. Their time together did not end there, as a few days later they traveled to Oahu to take on Kalaheo at Kailua High’s Alex Kane Stadium — a return game of the 2018 opener between the teams on the Garden Isle.

It was far from pretty, but Kauai did just enough in its season debut, a 7-0 win over the Mustangs.

“Definitely we have a lot to work on,” Apilado said. “We just got out of a weekend-long camp in preparation for this. These boys have been preparing and working hard since February. Obviously when you hit the game field and see certain things unfold, we still have a bunch of things we’ll have to clean up. When we get back to Kauai, we’re going right back to work and sharpen up, and clean up all the fundamental mistakes tonight.”

The deciding play was a 7-yard touchdown from backup quarterback Andrew Passi, a sophomore, to starting quarterback Awe Parangao, a senior, to begin the second quarter. Parangao shifted to slotback, his most experienced position, soon after throwing interceptions on the Raiders’ first two possessions.

Passi was an efficient 11-for-18 with 136 yards and no interceptions. Passi exited late when the wind got knocked out of him on a keeper, giving way to Parangao for the final few plays.

“He’s fine. … I gotta say, that was one of the bright spots tonight offensively, that our young one stepped up to the plate and took on the responsibility when we asked him to,” Apilado said.

Parangao, who backed up three seniors at QB last season, rolled with the outcome afterward and credited Passi, saying he “played a hell of a game.”

“It gives us a lot of range in what we can do. We can spread the ball out, we can run it, and he’s got a good arm, too,” said Parangao, a two-way player who added an interception of Kalaheo quarterback Isaiah Akiu in the third quarter.

That selflessness backed up what he said next: “This year, the bond is really closer than last year’s team. It really jelled, and I see a lot of potential with the guys I have today.”

Running back Kamu Peahu contributed 100 essential yards on 15 carries in the game-long field position battle with the Mustangs. The Red Raiders’ defense took advantage of the Mustangs’ patchwork offensive line — several of the hosts’ burlier players were out with academic probation — and dropped Akiu for a loss 10 times.

So, about that camp …

“Our camp is normally held up on our campus at the school. And it’s a good, fun experience for all the kids,” Apilado said. “They set up their camp sites and we have a couple of practices each day. Meals, bonding time. We’re there usually from Friday, Saturday, and then we break camp on Sunday. So a couple of days. The kids get to spend a good deal of time with no distractions. No cell phones, no social media, nothing. There’s just football, friends and fellowship. That’s all camp is about.”

Kauai, which lost out to Kapaa for the KIF title last year, seeks a return to the state tournament. Kapaa has been the more frequent KIF representative of late. Kauai has made it only once in the last five years, losing to Damien 13-10 in the 2017 Division I semifinals.

After a bye week, the Raiders will ready themselves for league play with another interleague game, as they host Maui High on Aug. 24 in Lihue. First, they host Kwansei Gakuin of Japan in a controlled scrimmage on Aug. 20.


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