Senior quarterback Alakai Yuen was supposed to be the star this season for the Moanalua football team.
But early on in the season opener against Damien on Friday night, Yuen struggled. Two of his first four passes were intercepted by the Monarchs, and Yuen was visibly frustrated on the sideline.
“He had major jitters, and I was trying to calm him down on the sideline,” first-year Moanalua coach Savai’i Eselu said. “Alakai is a workhorse, and he does such a great job at it. But when everything was going on around him again, it was a little hard for him.”
“I was having a rough time,” Yuen admitted. “I was really overthinking, and was forcing a lot of the balls. But on the sideline, I was just like, forget it and think the right way.”
Yuen was able to right the ship, finishing with 364 passing yards and six touchdowns while guiding Na Menehune to a 46-24 victory — an accomplishment he fully credits to his supporting cast.
“My coaches and teammates were doing a great job settling me down, and out there (on the field) my O-line was doing a great job blocking for me and my receivers were making plays for me,” Yuen said.
Easily the biggest contributor to Yuen’s rebound was senior receiver Ryan Ramones, one of just two impact receivers returning from last year’s team. Ramones hauled in a 34-yard pass to set up Moanalua’s first touchdown, then caught a perfectly-thrown 88-yard bomb from Yuen a few minutes later.
“They definitely have a strong connection, and we’ve been seeing that in practice,” Eselu said. “We were trying to get Ryan in positions to get open. But some of the time, it was just a matter of Ryan being the guy getting open out there.”
Ramones finished with 10 catches for 268 yards and five touchdowns, racking up the third-most receiving yards in a single game in Moanalua history.
“He’s just so hard-working,” Yuen said. “Me and him, we have hot routes just for him. He’ll look at me, and I’ll just give him a signal and we go. He runs his routes great, and gives 110 percent in everything he does. I know that I can trust him and rely on him.”
Despite the relatively easy win, Yuen isn’t nearly satisfied with his performance and knows Moanalua has a long way to go.
It starts with him.
“It was a nice win, and it’s going to give us momentum,” Yuen said. “But we have so much to work on, and it starts with playing well at the beginning of the game. We have to start strong and play hard in the beginning, and then keep it up. There’s always room for improvement.”