Nihipali-Botelho stokes Kahuku’s fire

Kahuku's Stokes Nihipali-Botelho had two interceptions and a kickoff return for a touchdown in a 44-0 win over Campbell on Friday night. In photo, Nihipali-Botelho dove over an Aiea defender. Jamm Aquino / Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
Kahuku’s Stokes Nihipali-Botelho had two interceptions and a kickoff return for a touchdown in a 44-0 win over Campbell on Friday night. In photo, Nihipali-Botelho dove over an Aiea defender. Jamm Aquino / Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Stokes Nihipali-Botelho has been making big plays in the limelight for the top-ranked Kahuku Red Raiders for two seasons now.

It’s a wonder opposing quarterbacks even throw in his direction. The defensive back, it seems, comes up with at least one interception per game. Sometimes two.

He had two picks in the Red Raiders’ 44-0 home victory over Campbell on Friday night, and he also had a ton of return yardage. And, let’s not forget, he kicked all six of his extra-point attempts.


Nihipali-Botelho was a huge part of Kahuku’s run to the Division I state championship when he was a junior a year ago. This year, as a senior, he is making sure that the team’s defensive unit at least comes close to last year, when the unit was arguably the best the state has ever seen, having yielded less than 4 points per game.

Aside from the stats he’s piling up, let’s take a look at what makes him special. From this vantage point, he has all the tools and instincts, but probably the best one is timing. He knows when to break on the football from his cornerback position.

Early in the game against Campbell, Sabers quarterback Kawika Ulufale tested Botelho directly by throwing a high ball to the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Markus Ramos. Nihipali-Botelho, at 5-10, 150, was giving away five inches and 40 pounds.

Sure enough, Ramos won that first physical battle — by a hair. But the next time Ulufale went to Ramos on that side, Botelho stepped in front of the pass and picked it off.

Impeccable timing.

“He’s just a class act,” Kahuku head coach Vavae Tata said after Friday’s win, the team’s 17th in a row without a loss since he was hired. “He does it all. He tries to beat his previous best. That’s what we all try to do on defense, beat our previous best performance.”

That makes a lot of sense. A year ago, the Red Raiders ‘D’ started aggressively in a 50-0 season-opening home win over Campbell and kept improving each week until the whole thing came fully together in a 39-14 win over Saint Louis in the state championship game.

Sitting in the Aloha Stadium stands and watching that defense closely, it looked like a titanium umbrella that nothing was going to get through. Full protection of their turf. Keala Santiago, Nihipali-Botelho, Kekaula Kaniho … the top of that umbrella. Hungry linemen and linebackers lining up in multiple different looks with blitzing coming from many different directions and making star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa throw the ball up for grabs a few times.

Well, what will this year’s defense be like when it rounds all the way into form? Early-season bets were that they could not come near last season. But, those odds could be changing. Nihipali-Botelho and Kaniho, the team’s other cornerback that figuratively has “aggressive” and “intangibles” written all over his scouting report, are there in the defensive backfield. Instead of Santiago, who is now at UH, they have Kesi Ah-Hoy, who is a football player’s football player. He’s quick, he’s fast, he can hit, he can overpower, he can make moves (he returned an interception 52 yards for a TD against Campbell) and he is the ultimate leader, according to his coaches. The way he plays with everything he’s got kind of, sort of make him the “ultimate Red Raider.” But, we all know we could argue that point all day.

Don’t forget to add in Miki Ah You, a sophomore who showed off his linebacker skills with multiple tackles, including a few body slams, against the Sabers (2-3, 2-2 OIA Blue).


Ah You also sacked Ulufale in the end zone for a safety for a 9-0 first-quarter lead. Three of his tackles were for loss and he topped it off with a blocked a punt that led to Kahuku’s second-to-last touchdown.

Take a look at this list of others who had a tackle for loss (kind of makes sense that the list is long, since, all told, Campbell was held to negative-15 yards on the night): Toalei Lefau (two), Jarom Wesley, Sioeli Naupoto, Kaniho, Aliki Vimahi (sack), Sedric Iafeta, Marcus Damuni (sack) and Samson Kapule-Siilata.

Samson Reed and George Lauhingoa contributed to the monster defensive night with fumble recoveries for Kahuku (4-0, 4-0 OIA Blue).

But, back to Nihipali-Botelho. Aside from his two interceptions, he had several breakups. And let’s also take a look at his return yardage. He ran back the opening kickoff against Campbell 84 yards for a touchdown (in the journalism business, mentioning that igniting moment this late in the story is called burying the lead).

In addition, Nihipali-Botelho returned one of his picks for 41 yards and added a 40-yard punt return. Combined with the kickoff return, that’s at least 165 yards in returns for the night.

“This whole week we’ve been practicing all of our special teams, so everybody was on,” Nihipali-Botelho said. “We were making sure all of us were 100 percent and knew our jobs, so we just had to come out and execute, and — with all of that combined with what I did — it felt really good.

“We’ve got a lot to work on, giving up too much yards, too many big plays. We’ve just got to come back next week (to prepare for the Radford game on Friday), start working on it and hopefully come out better.”

That’s Tata’s way of saying, “Beat our previous best performance.”

The Rams (0-4, 0-3), next week’s opponent, won the Division II state championship a year ago before moving up to D-I to start this season. It will be Kahuku’s final game before heading to Las Vegas for a Sept. 17 matchup against Bishop Gorman, the No. 1 team in the USA Super 25.


There were a handful of players for Campbell who had a big night defensively, including Poki‘i Adkins-Kupukaa (two fumble recoveries and a clutch tackle on a Kahuku fourth down and 2 situation), freshman linebacker Tyrese Tafai (multiple tackles), and Jeremiah Leaeno (forced fumble).

The Sabers have a bye next weekend and return to action Sept. 16 against Moanalua (2-2, 1-2). It will be Campbell’s first home game since 2014. The Sabers played on the road all of last season and part of this season with the field and surrounding track getting improvements.

COMMENTS

  1. Northshore September 6, 2016 3:00 am

    I Love 88: “It’s okay, 88 and I forgive you, I hope and prey you continue to put your opinions. Talk about spelling “prey” and using the word put for writing or submitting my opinions. You’re not so perfect after all but tried to act like a perfect english teacher and it showed that we all make mistakes at one time or another. Speak for yourself instead of bringing another person (88) into this conversation that you’ve started. People that can’t handle their situation alone usually brings another person into the picture and it is a sign of requiring support. But that’s okay if you need someone to stand by you. You’re wrong while you play the guessing game by calling me Madam because you’re conversing with a man, a RRFL and proud of it. It’ gives me a satisfaction that I have made you laugh and thanks for forgiving me for my faults in writing because no one is perfect including yourself.


  2. Jason Keuma September 6, 2016 5:25 am

    thanks for the other possible reasons.

    i love how the memory of St. Louis’ dominance/recruiting in days past has cast an aurora on today’s ILH teams being better than they are. That the ILH is a stronger conference. I would like to see St. Louis play Waianae.

    After everything is said and done the ILH is still 7 out of 17. This format change just feels shady. The naming of the division (open division). Doesn’t really plan on future expansion (division 3…division 4). That schools can stay in D1? If they are not D1, then they should be in D2. I don’t wonder, I’m positive that both ILH teams will never face each other in the first round. The teams will be ranked, St. Louis an punahoe will be side by side (always) that way they will never play each other in the first round.

    I enjoy the conversation.


  3. 808 RR4L September 6, 2016 6:02 am

    “I don’t wonder, I’m positive that both ILH teams will never face each other in the first round. The teams will be ranked, St. Louis an punahoe will be side by side (always) that way they will never play each other in the first round.”

    For pretty much all team sports, this is the case. When teams are placed in the bracket, HHSAA tries to not matchup ILH with each other in the first round or OIA. OIA has much more teams in the draw than ILH so usually what they do is attempt to make it so that two OIA from the same division doesn’t play each other in the first round.

    It’s not an ILH conspiracy. It’s just how it is and HHSAA and coaches (a lot of the seeding meetings are done with representatives from each league present) do their best to make it a positive experience for the kids. You guys should actually volunteer and coach at your local public school so that you can see how this process works.


  4. Education First September 6, 2016 8:26 am

    Northshore September 6, 2016 at 3:00 am
    I Love 88: “It’s okay, 88 and I forgive you, I hope and prey you continue to put your opinions. Talk about spelling “prey” and using the word put for writing or submitting my opinions. You’re not so perfect after all but tried to act like a perfect english teacher and it showed that we all make mistakes at one time or another. Speak for yourself instead of bringing another person (88) into this conversation that you’ve started. People that can’t handle their situation alone usually brings another person into the picture and it is a sign of requiring support. But that’s okay if you need someone to stand by you. You’re wrong while you play the guessing game by calling me Madam because you’re conversing with a man, a RRFL and proud of it. It’ gives me a satisfaction that I have made you laugh and thanks for forgiving me for my faults in writing because no one is perfect including yourself.

    I have to humbly disagree with I Love 88. Northshore definitely writes much better than a 3rd grader! I take offense to that. Northshore has the ability of at least a 5th grader! C’mon guys! Give that lady a hug and a smile! After all, as a community we need to support parents that have failed their children.

    When her son wanted to go the movies with his friends, Northshore had no extra change. When her son wanted some loose change to get snacks, there was none. And when her son wanted to buy books from Scholastic.com like the other kids, there was no money.

    Of course Northshore will be bitter and have spite. She has failed her son. Don’t worry Northshore we forgive you! I am not sure your son does though.


  5. Education First September 6, 2016 10:12 am

    Jason Keuma September 6, 2016 at 5:25 am
    thanks for the other possible reasons.

    i love how the memory of St. Louis’ dominance/recruiting in days past has cast an aurora on today’s ILH teams being better than they are. That the ILH is a stronger conference. I would like to see St. Louis play Waianae.

    After everything is said and done the ILH is still 7 out of 17. This format change just feels shady. The naming of the division (open division). Doesn’t really plan on future expansion (division 3…division 4). That schools can stay in D1? If they are not D1, then they should be in D2. I don’t wonder, I’m positive that both ILH teams will never face each other in the first round. The teams will be ranked, St. Louis an punahoe will be side by side (always) that way they will never play each other in the first round.

    I enjoy the conversation.

    Recruiting is the name of the game Jason. I am fine with it. If Kahuku (or any other school) put out a better product and it was free, there would be no need to change schools or go to schools out of your community.

    But when you school consistently ranks near the bottom for academics, what do you expect the parents to go?

    Sports might be the vehicle to get to Punahou, but the kids still have to do the work. And trust me, it isn’t that easy for many of them.

    I read a lot of people complaining about recruiting. I bet these are the same people who think it’s unfair for Alabama and Ohio State to recruit and that is the reason why UH sucks.

    Recruiting is fair game. If you look at the root, there is a lack of confidence in the public school in the community for many of these families choosing to leave.


  6. Jason Keuma September 6, 2016 11:01 am

    Have I complained about recruiting?


  7. iSpeakReality September 6, 2016 11:22 am

    @Jason Keuma
    thanks for the other possible reasons.

    i love how the memory of St. Louis’ dominance/recruiting in days past has cast an aurora on today’s ILH teams being better than they are. That the ILH is a stronger conference. I would like to see St. Louis play Waianae.

    After everything is said and done the ILH is still 7 out of 17. This format change just feels shady. The naming of the division (open division). Doesn’t really plan on future expansion (division 3…division 4). That schools can stay in D1? If they are not D1, then they should be in D2. I don’t wonder, I’m positive that both ILH teams will never face each other in the first round. The teams will be ranked, St. Louis an punahoe will be side by side (always) that way they will never play each other in the first round.

    If you haven’t seen what Punahou has done to Kamehameha. Than you really need to think about St. Louis playing Waianae. Punahou just showed how weak Kamehameha was & that the game they loss to Waianae is irrelevant in any conversation. Waianae along with Farrington is the OIA’s yearly “one & done” state tournament turnouts. And if you’ve seen what happens to Mililani last night I think everyone would know why they whole OIA is whining about the new format. The OIA is what, 10 of 17 in state tournaments? But the percentages of winning is 4 OIA to 1 ILH. Now that the new format is in play people tend to cry about the ILH’s 2nd seed rather than looks at how weak the OIA’s 2 & 3 seeds are. And seriously, why would you put the 2 ILH teams in the same bracket? Its like the BCS playoff seeding 1 &2 in the 1st round.

    Smh


  8. Jason Keuma September 7, 2016 6:01 am

    Kamehameha is weak? Iolani is weak? Yet you get the upper 50% of the ILH into the “playoff?” Rather than just complain, here’s a possible solution to all our problems. One team champion from each league. Big island, Maui, Kauai, OIA, and ILH. First round: 1, 2, 3 seed gets a bye, 4 plays 5. Second round: 1 plays winner of 4/5, 2 plays3. You end up with a championship game that included all islands. a state championship, not just a renamed “prep bowl”( ILH vs OIA ). Just a thought. Let me know what you think.


  9. iSpeakReality September 7, 2016 2:37 pm

    Jason Keuma September 7, 2016 at 6:01 am
    Kamehameha is weak? Iolani is weak? Yet you get the upper 50% of the ILH into the “playoff?” Rather than just complain, here’s a possible solution to all our problems. One team champion from each league. Big island, Maui, Kauai, OIA, and ILH. First round: 1, 2, 3 seed gets a bye, 4 plays 5. Second round: 1 plays winner of 4/5, 2 plays3. You end up with a championship game that included all islands. a state championship, not just a renamed “prep bowl”( ILH vs OIA ). Just a thought. Let me know what you think.

    Maybe the state should cut through the chase & interleague the island of Oahu. Make it into 2 divisions (East & West) & play out a full regular season schedule. Play the division championships to seed 6 total teams from each division ( 3 from each division). All 6 teams to the state for a playoff. As far as the outer island, I don’t think anyone care because they haven’t showed up to a state tournament yet.


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