Offensive coordinator Andrew Manley talked to his Leilehua players about the high energy the team showed in Saturday’s 37-19 home victory over Castle.
And it was true. After a little bit of a slow start (punt and then fumble) the Mules had a hop in their step the rest of the way. Quarterback Max Nichols spread the ball around for his 291 passing yards and four TDs. Dorian Furtado was the recipient of four passes for 115 yards and two TDs. Kalei Akagi had four catches for 54 yards and a TD. Jeremy Evans had three catrches for 53 yards and a TD, and Jayzon Ramos added three grabs for 51 yards.
That’s a lot of weapons, and that’s without mentioning the contribution of running backs Cody Akagi and Damarion Smith, who combined for 61 rushing yards to help keep the Castle defense off balance.
Nichols was quick to mention that Mules’ O-line was playing as a unit and successfully communicating. And head coach Mark Kurisu also gave props to the men up front.
“It goes back to the O-line and protection,” he said. “It made it easier for Max to see the coverage. We knew to run if they tried to stop the pass. Running the ball really opens it up.”
Another potent Leilehua weapon, running back James McGary, is recovering from a broken hand suffered on the first day of pads.
Leilehua’s defense did its job, too, bothering Knights starting quarterback Pono Kahala-Giron into scrambling mode. He was sacked five times, and backup Samuel Judd was sacked once. Mules defenders Xavier Tauasosi and Jaku Hanohano-Baptista led that sack party with two each. Hanohano-Baptista’s resulted in a safety, allowing the Mules to start back from a 7-0 deficit.
Kahala-Giron unloaded two early TD passes for the Knights, including one to Paul Omengebar for 80 yards after Kahala-Giron did a Harry Houdini and escaped what looked like a sure sack.
With his Leilehua receivers running precise routes, Nichols was right on the money with the long ball for most of the night. Three of his TD passes went for 40 yards or more.
Maybe that’s why Manley (the top-tier state championship winning quarterback with the Mules in 2007) said the following at a preseason camp at Kamehameha: “He’s great, but I’m kind of partial to my guy, Max Nichols.”
He had been asked for his opinion of Jayden de Laura, Saint Louis’ highly-touted junior QB who presently has the Crusaders off to a 2-0 Open Division start.
“Our team finally came together like how we always knew we could,” Nichols said. “The O-line was working together as a team, communicating, and the receviers were on the sideline talking about what works against certain defenders. It was a great game on both sides of ball.
“(Trailing 13-2), the defense was a little bit down. The offense had a little meeting and we knew we had to pick it up. Sometimes it’s the defense and sometimes it’s the offense that needs to pick up the slack. We knew we had to in the first quarter. We did our job.”
Leilehua outgained Castle in scrimmage yards, 355 (64 rushing, 291 passing) to 218 (52 rushing, 166 passing).
The Mules (2-1, 2-0 OIA Division I) visit Nanakuli next Friday. On the same night, the Knights (0-3, 0-2) head to Waipahu to take on the Marauders.