It was a breakout game for young Alakai Yuen.
Sure, the Moanalua offense is geared up, an offensive juggernaut — but only with the right combination of field vision, passing skills and toughness in its trigger man. On Saturday night, there was absolutely no doubt that man was Yuen, who passed for 345 yards, five TDs and no picks (21-for-35) before going down with a neck injury during a late-game drive into Farrington territory.
No. 6 Farrington’s 42-35 win was well-earned in a game of drama and passing proficiency on both sides of the ball. But the fun came to a halt with Yuen’s injury. He was on the field and stayed down as trainers tended to him until an ambulance arrived. Coach Jason Cauley said they used scissors to cut off his jersey and pads to make sure his neck was stabilized. What was considered “only” a stinger in the old days is treated with absolute precaution, wisely so, in this generation.
(UPDATE: Coach Cauley texted back on Sunday night and reported that Yuen will be “OK. We’re not sure if he’s gonna be back this week. I doubt it. His overall safety is the most important thing.”)
Cauley is innovative, risk-taking and passionate. After the game, he could’ve been upset about the officials’ blunder just before the half, when they cost Moanalua a down in the red zone. But his only concern after the game was to get to the hospital quickly to check on his fallen quarterback.
It was, in hindsight, Moanalua’s 2015 season possibly reaching a peak, rallying from a 21-9 halftime deficit to score four TDs in a row during the third quarter for a 35-29 lead. All momentum was with Na Menehune. And now? They’re 1-2 in league play, their QB may be out for a lengthy period after playing the game of his life. They were oh, so close to knocking off an unbeaten team in their division.
The beauty of sports, especially at the prep level, is that so much rides on emotion. Confidence. Motivation. By Monday, if not today or even Saturday night, Cauley and his staff have likely challenged their hearty Na Menehune to rise up. To bring even more to every drill at practice, every play in every game. When a team on the verge of becoming good, or even great, can get even a 1-percent improvement from every player on the roster each day, the cumulative effect would be remarkable. Five percent would be gargantuan.
And yet, as Yuen departed on that ambulance last night, he might have been looking ahead already to the day he returns, to a team that might just become significantly better through sheer will. Alakai translates to “leader” in Hawaiian. How Moanalua responds to adversity is a test of individual leadership at this point of the season. Expecting teenagers to understand ownership and responsibility is tough enough, but they nearly pulled out an upset win last night after their QB was injured. That was, even in defeat, a showing of grit, guts and unity against a formidable Farrington program.
Surviving the tough OIA Blue is one thing. Securing a playoff spot is, maybe, the biggest challenge at this point. Na Menehune will visit another talented, hungry team, Kapolei, this Saturday.