If big-time players make big-time plays, then Kana’i Mauga is as prime as it gets.
It seems that the Waianae senior is making his bid for defensive player of the year honors each time he takes the field this season. He added to his hot streak on Saturday night against Radford, taking an interception 71 yards to the house. It was the Seariders’ first touchdown of the game and it set the tone for a 47-15 rout.
“All the credit goes to the DB’s and they’re doing their job,” he said afterwards. “It’s a defense and team thing.”
Mauga’s productive season started with a 29-yard fumble return in the team’s opener against No. 1 Saint Louis. He added a 46-yard fumble return for a touchdown against Campbell in a 27-14 win on Aug. 25. In last week’s matchup with Moanalua, he scored on a 17-yard pick-six.
Waianae head coach Walter Young acknowledged his star’s propensity to make big plays but redirected his praise to Mauga’s demeanor.
“He’s a great team player, though. He comes and makes plays but he always talks to the rest of the defense and is always picking up the rest of the kids,” Young said. “It’s not just the plays he makes, it’s the leadership he brings that makes him such a great kid.”
The No. 10 Seariders improved to 3-3 on the season and 3-2 in OIA Blue play. With favorable matchups against Aiea and Kaiser ahead, the Seariders have an opportunity to close out the regular season with some real momentum heading into the playoffs, where Mauga will be tested with the stakes raised.
“We feel great,” Mauga said. “With this winning streak we got, it gives us motivation to strive more to win so it’s a blessing.”
“We take it one game at a time and one week at a time,” Young added. “The kids will go home and enjoy this win, and come Monday we’ll start the new week and go from there.”
Mauga, who committed to Southern California in June, said after the game that he’s still an “open book.” He also said that he hopes to take more visits and “explore” before the recruiting process is over.
Although Mauga is listed as a defensive lineman and linebacker on Waianae’s roster, he’s also been asked to run the ball at times for the Seariders this season. On Saturday, he had a carry for an 8-yard gain. He even has a touchdown under his belt, when he added a 1-yard score against the Sabers.
Part of what makes Mauga an interesting prospect is his versatility defensively, where he possesses the strength of a lineman with the range of a defensive back. When asked what his favorite position is, he simply said that he doesn’t have one.
“It doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “Put me anywhere, I got you.”