Nowhere to run, so ‘Canes get airborne

Taulia Tagovailoa is the first Kapolei QB to throw over 300, and 400, yards in a game. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.
Taulia Tagovailoa is the first Kapolei QB to throw over 300, and 400, yards in a game. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.

It’s not the recent release of Madden 16 that’ll have these numbers for any QB in a single game: 42 completions, 67 pass attempts, 448 yards with four TDs, three INTs.

It was a good night’s work for Kapolei’s Taulia Tagovailoa as the Hurricanes got past Moanalua 33-21 on Saturday. Even with at 6.7 yards per attempt, it wasn’t sheer luck that the freshman was consistent with his connections to eight different receivers. Not many fans would’ve blamed the Hurricanes for embracing the forward pass on every single snap.

When the second half began, the Kapolei Hurricanes did what most reasonable teams with a 20-point lead would do. The ‘Canes ran the ball. Never mind that Tagovailoa was 22-for-34, 255 yards, four touchdown strikes and zero, zero, zero turnovers in the first half. Nope. A 20-0 lead against a dangerous, potentially explosive offense like Moanalua’s could not be toyed with.

Kapolei ran the ball to start the second half. First carry from scrimmage: minus two yards. Then a safe pass that gained three yards. And then, on third and 9, Tagovailoa threw his first pick of the game, one of three that the visitors made in the second half.

Moanalua came up empty in the ensuing series, and again in its second possession of the second half. Kapolei initiated its third series in the third quarter with two running plays, and L.J. Esperas picked up seven and eight yards. But penalties set the ‘Canes back as they did all night. Kapolei settled for a field goal, and at 30-7, all seemed somewhat safe.

Moanalua didn’t get the memo, of course, scoring two touchdowns to get within striking distance. A missed opportunity on a 2-point conversion pass would’ve brought Na Menehune within 30-23 with 5:42 to play. And that was that. Beau Meyer‘s second FG, a 34-yarder, pushed the lead to 33-21 and Moanalua’s hopes were dashed.

By night’s end, Moanalua had 12 penalties for 154 yards. Kapolei had 17 yellow flags for 162 yards. But Kapolei won the battle in the trenches, at least when QBs stepped back to pass. The ‘Canes finished with six sacks to Moanalua’s three.

It was just enough to stymie the epic effort of Moanalua quarterback Alakai Yuen, who returned from a neck injury in last week’s close loss to Farrington. He’s far from 100 percent, but with a possible playoff berth at stake with each of Moanalua’s remaining games, he was game and he was relentless.

Despite the stinger, which reportedly left his legs feeling numb momentarily during the Farrington game, he ran the ball 16 times against Kapolei, mustering 28 yards amidst the sack-a-thon. He finished 15-for-32, 231 yards, two TDs and two picks. After going 2-for-15, 18 yards with two interceptions and a couple of dropped passes, he was much more in command starting with Moanalua’s first TD drive late in the first half. From that drive on, Yuen was 13-for-17, 213 yards and two TDs, no turnovers.

“Their defense came out firing. They brought some pressure,” Yuen said. “We came back, but we should’ve started out better.

The neck, the back, a wrist — they all ache right now.

“I’m still in pain, but my doctor said I should be good to play,” Yuen said.

At this point, the mid-point, of the OIA regular season, just about everybody’s got some lingering pain somewhere. At 1-3 in the OIA Blue, there’s no consolation for Moanalua in knowing they were very close in those three losses.

“We’ve got to focus on next game. I believe in my boys,” Yuen said. “We can do this.”

Meanwhile, the video game numbers for Tagovailoa aren’t what the ‘Canes consider the best numbers possible. The 448 yards shattered a single-game mark for passing yardage, surpassing the 394 yards Tagovailoa threw for a week earlier against Mililani.

His dad, offensive coordinator Galu Tagovailoa, wants balance. Much, much more balance. It’s the reason why Kapolei still wants to run the ball and establish second and short, third and short all the time. But the win over Moanalua came with a steep price: Esperas suffered a knee injury late in the game. The Hurricanes won’t know for sure until the knee gets checked out, but it’s a possible ACL tear for the reliable ballcarrier.

Esperas started the preseason as the second-string RB, so whatever semblance of a running game the ‘Canes can muster should alleviate the pressure on Tagovailoa. He is often accurate and has full confidence in his talented receiving corps on any route, and their ability to haul in the freshman’s out-route bullets is aesthetically pleasing. Those short throws are basically Tagovailoa’s version of a safe handoff, but nothing gets safer than a solid ground game.

During the past week, Moanalua coach Jason Cauley wasn’t sure whether his QB would return soon. In fact, he considered it doubtful. He was ready to start holding QB tryouts, only half-kidding. At this point, Kapolei needs to find a productive contributor in the running game. Two would be even better.

Until then, 67 pass attempts in a game never gets tiring to watch. If you miss the old UH run and shoot, catch a Kapolei game in the meantime. You might get your fill.


  1. lopati15 September 6, 2015 8:23 pm

    great game coming up against Campbell.

  2. Football September 6, 2015 8:36 pm

    Taulia is bad a$$. I don’t know any freshmen quarterback has done was he has done,that is awesome. He is truly next level talent.

  3. 88 September 7, 2015 5:00 pm

    Didnt the Lelehua QB lead his team to a State Title as a freshman. Or maybe it was his sophmore year. Thats got to rank somewhere up there.

  4. Football September 7, 2015 9:21 pm

    can you name quarterback?

  5. 88 September 7, 2015 9:25 pm

    @Football; Andrew Manley.

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