The threat of Randy Neverson is almost as good as the player himself.
Neverson had a whopper of a game in No. 8 Leilehua’s 46-27 dumping of No. 9 Waianae on Friday night at the Seariders’ Raymond Torii Field.
The athletic, 6-foot, 205-pound senior likes the direct route, usually going in as straight a line as he can with dramatic effect.
He can play slotback, running back, quarterback or wide receiver and he can return kicks.
On Friday, he lined up as a running back and the Waianae defense had to respect his ability to lug it up the middle. If they didn’t watch him, he could (and did nearly untouched on several occasions) break away with speed.
With some of Waianae’s focus on stopping Neverson, the Leilehua receivers had more room and three Mules quarterbacks wound up throwing six touchdown passes, including three by 5-foot-8, 175-pound senior Kalanimoku Pauole.
Neverson took up some of the slack left by senior starting running back Ikaika Piceno, who pulled a hamstring a week earlier in a win over McKinley and didn’t play against the Seariders.
He finished with just 43 rushing yards on six carries, but busted one up the middle for a 21-yard touchdown that gave the Mules (3-0, 3-0 OIA Red) an early 20-0 lead.
Prior to that, he did much more damage. He returned the opening kickoff up the middle for 57 yards, setting the tone for the game in which Neverson shined brighter than any other player on the field.
That initial drive stalled, but Neverson got the Leilehua offense rolling on a trick play. He took a lateral from Pauole and fired a 36-yard TD pass to Austin Molina.
“We started slow and we needed something to get us going,” Leilehua coach Nolan Tokuda said. “That’s why we went to the trick play, to loosen things up.”
Later, Neverson was the recipient of a 17-yard Pauole TD pass.
“We’re working as a team,” said Neverson, who acknowledged his big game but deflected attention to his teammates. “We work hard at practice and we are mentally focused. I can’t thank the guys on this team and the coaches enough (for his big performance).”
Pauole passed for 219 yards, but also had two interceptions and was sacked four times to go along with his three TDs.
Overall, Waianae had eight sacks against the three Mules quarterbacks.
“Waianae was not a pushover,” Pauole said. “They played us pretty tough. Beating them is a big confidence builder.”
Lauriano Lucas made a spectacular over-the-shoulder diving grab of a 40-yard Pauole pass to set up a Leilehua touchdown. He also scored on an 86-yard TD pass from Pauole.
It will be tough for the Mules to climb much higher in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser Top 10 due to a logjam of good teams above them.
As usual, Leilehua will go as far as its offense takes it. But Mules defensive stalwarts have not gone unnoticed.
Senior defensive ends Paul Ke-a and Soga Eli both had two sacks of Seariders senior quarterback Ioane Kaluhiokalani.
“These are really unselfish guys,” Tokuda said. “They show up for practice, work hard and you never hear a word. And then they come out to the game and do their job and just get back to work. (To them), it’s not about them.”
Ke-a also intercepted a Kaluhiokalani pass that set up a Leilehua touchdown and he recovered a Waianae fumble.
Senior defensive back Jeremiah Tuiolemotu (fumble recovery), senior linebacker Anterrio Gainwell (sack), junior linebacker Devin Gray (interception) and senior linebacker Danzell Stevens Leaai (sack) were among the other defensive playmakers in the game for Leilehua.
In all, there were 13 sacks in the game, including five by the Mules, who won the turnover battle 4-3.
Leilehua hosts Castle next Friday with a chance to improve to 4-0.
“If we play as a team, that will lead us to victory,” Pauole said.