SEVENTH IN A SERIES ON SPRING FOOTBALL PRACTICES ON OAHU
Nanakuli’s memorable 2014 football season ended too quickly for the ever-faithful Golden Hawks fans.
The team is out to make the upcoming fall 2015 season last longer.
With many players back from the Golden Hawks’ first championship season since 1983 (they won the 2014 OIA Division II regular-season and playoff titles), they are out to accomplish more in 2015.
“We achieved our goal of winning the OIA last year,” returning offensive tackle Kalae Wong said. “We want to defend that and win the state, too. That’s our goal.”
Wong joins a group of linemen who head coach Keala Watson said go by “the fat four.”
“Those four guys have been together side by side in the same positions for two years, 9th and 10th grades on the JV team, and they’ll be together again this year,” said Watson, who added that they’re, “Unsung heroes, a package deal and comfortable with each other.”
The four are left tackle Isaac Pascua, left guard Pekelo Kahai-Oku, center Chris Noa and right guard Jacob Fiaai.
Wong, who plays right guard, said jokingly, “Oh they’re fat. They’re getting the hang of stuff (for being on the varsity for the first time), but they gotta stop the fooling around (that they do sometimes) and learn that this is not the JV level. Varsity is a lot different. It’s bigger, faster and stronger and you’ve got to try to execute 100 percent.”
Nainoa Banks, who is up from the JV squad, is slated to be the starting quarterback.
Watson is excited about his veteran receiver corps of Isain Wong-Lonzanida, Clifford Cunningham and the 6-foot-2 Keanu Momoa.
The coach calls Momoa a mini-Megatron, after the Detroit Lions’ Calvin Johnson.
“He’s a tough guy to defend because of his height and athleticism,” Watson said.
Wong-Lonzanida and Cunningham, who is also a kicker, were big contributors on last year’s title team.
“These three receivers are humble, not the type who will put it in your face and do fancy TD dances,” Watson said. “They’re workhorses who get their yards and go line up for the next play.”
Defensively, the Golden Hawks have many playmakers back, including OIA Division II defensive player of the year Randy Manewa, a linebacker, and Alexcio Meyers, who plays linebacker and safety.
“Manewa has gotten even faster and even stronger,” Watson said. “It’s scary. And his dedication is through the roof.”
Manewa is psyched up for his senior season and is always striving to get better.
“I can improve on everything, my grades, my weight by putting on pounds, pushing everybody to game level and being a real leader and speaking up for everybody,” he said.
Bryce Kaopua and Hoku Kamai are hybrid defensive ends who Watson calls “the best defensive ends you could ask for.”
Watson, however, is wary of the team getting overconfident due to last year’s success.
“It’s easy to be comfortable after a season like last year,” he said. “It’s like rinse and repeat. If we stay in the same place, we may get rolled. Right now, we’re trying to find areas of improvement, and it’s hard, because things that looked good last year may not have been evident because we were winning.
“We’re expecting to see everyone’s (other teams’) best. They’re shooting to beat the favorite. We will have to be on top of our game in every aspect.”
A year ago, the Golden Hawks finished 10-1, with a 42-20, first-round state tournament loss on the Big Island to Kamehameha-Hawaii breaking a 10-game winning streak, ending their chance at a state title and a cause for the them to still be smarting seven months later.
“We’re looking for a little redemption,” Wong, the senior tackle, said. “We came up short.”
Previously in the series on spring football practices —
PART 1 >> KAHUKU, May 18 practice: http://www.hawaiiprepworld.com/football/first-day-of-practice-like-christmas-for-tata/
PART 2 >> ‘IOLANI, May 19 practice: http://www.hawaiiprepworld.com/football/iolani-football-team-cranked-up-for-d-i/
PART 3 >> PUNAHOU, May 22 practice: http://www.hawaiiprepworld.com/football/punahous-primary-football-pieces-still-in-place/
PART 4 MILILANI, May 26 practice: http://www.hawaiiprepworld.com/football/mililani-drives-to-steer-clear-of-being-average/
PART 5 KAISER, May 27 practice: http://www.hawaiiprepworld.com/football/kaiser-eager-for-oia-and-state-football-ascent/
PART 6 CAMPBELL, June 1 practice: http://www.hawaiiprepworld.com/football/amosa-campbell-want-a-bonding-like-no-other/