Oahu’s best players to never reach title game

Joe Igber rushed for 2,112 yards and 27 touchdowns in 10 ILH games as a senior. This was taken on the final TD run of his career. Photo by Dennis Oda; Image effects by Dean Sensui/Star-Bulletin.
Joe Igber rushed for 2,112 yards and 27 touchdowns in 10 ILH games as a senior. This was taken on the final TD run of his career. Photo by Dennis Oda; Image effects by Dean Sensui/Star-Bulletin.

Enjoy it, boys.

This year’s new state championship format gives two more groups of players the chance to play for a state title. For a select few, it will be a footnote on their great football careers. For the overwhelming majority, though, this weekend’s games represent the pinnacle of their high school athletic experience.

Like O.J. Simpson and Ernie Banks on the national stage, the list of greats who never appeared in the big game is even longer.


Here is a highly-subjective list of the best players in Oahu history who never reached a Prep Bowl or state championship.

1. Joe Igber, 1996-1998 ‘Iolani
It is probably fitting that while NFL fans consider Detroit’s Barry Sanders one of the greatest to play without reaching the Super Bowl, Igber tops Oahu’s list. They were very much the same player, with Igber holding the Oahu rushing title until Vavae Malepeai came along and he is still considered by many to be one of the top three backs of all time along with Mark Atuaia and Mosi Tatupu. Tatupu never played in a Prep Bowl, either, but he is not on this list because only his senior year overlapped. Igber came closest to the big game in his junior year when the Raiders went 7-3 but were chewed up by Cal Lee‘s dynasty at Saint Louis. Igber’s ‘Iolani squad was 0-6 against the Crusaders in his career.

2. Adrian Murrell, 1986-88 Leilehua
Murrell was a scourge at running back for the Mules, the closest he came to the Prep Bowl was the agonizing 1988 season when his Mules went undefeated until meeting Kailua in the OIA quarterfinals. Murrell was held to 52 yards that night as the teams played to a 20-20 tie after regulation and left the senior’s fates up the “Cornell Rule,” which gives each team the ball once in overtime and the side that advances the ball furthest is declared the winner. Kailua had seven more yards than Leilehua and Murrell went on to a successful NFL career in which he never reached the Super Bowl.

3. Jerry Leaeno, 1991-93 Campbell
The defensive standout was a three-time OIA all star and defensive player of the year twice but played on a Campbell squad that never had a winning season. He went on to success for a bad Hawaii team but his greatness in high school was confirmed after his senior year when he was inducted into the HHSAA’s Hall of Honor.

4. Kama Bailey, 2005-07 Damien
Bailey was Igber-light, probably the best of a long line of Damien standouts who never sniffed the big game. Like Igber with the Saint Louis dynasty, Bailey’s career overlapped with the beginning of Wendell Look’s Division II dynasty at Iolani. While Igber was never able to beat the Crusaders, Bailey did take down Iolani as a junior with 220 yards in a 14-10 win but tripped up against Pac-Five late in the year. Bailey’s Monarchs won only two ILH games, both against Pac-Five, in his senior year while playing a division I schedule.


5. London Amorin, 2007-09 Pac-Five
Amorin has the distinction of having the most career receiving yards with 2,647 but never showing his skills in a state tournament game because Iolani was at its full powers. That leaves Amorin and his quarterback, P.J. Minaya, on this heartbreaking list but they sure had fun in the games they did play. Amorin ended his career with successive games with more than 200 yards receiving, a rare feat indeed.

6. Shaydon Kehano, 2007-09 Castle
Kehano teamed with quarterback Jaymason Lee and running back Garrett Paredes to form a terrific trio that just couldn’t get over the hump. Still Kehano’s greatness can not be denied, he is one of eight players on Oahu to have more than 2,000 receiving yards in a season. His career overlapped with Amorin’s, leaving two of the greatest receivers of all time shut out of a championship game. Kehano’s best chance of reaching the big dance came in the OIA third place game in his senior year, when the Knights fell to the Governors 42-26 despite a spectacular performance by the receiver.

7. P.J. Minaya, 2008-09 Pac-Five
Minaya is behind Amorin on this list because his performance understandably dipped on the few occasions Amorin was contained as a junior but much of this is semantics. They are the same player. Minaya is top 10 all time in passing yards and held the single-game mark of 511 yards until it was surpassed two years ago. He is now way down to fifth on that list as the OIA becomes more pass happy, but his seven touchdowns in that game against Word of Life is still impressive.

8. Burton Coloma, 1973-75 Waialua
To have a receiver and defensive back from the early 1970s seems a little odd, but Coloma certainly belongs. Coloma still holds the oldest OIA single game record on the books with his 247 receiving yards against Leilehua more than 40 years ago with his brother, Jason, throwing to him with head coach Norm Chow calling the plays. Coloma’s Waialua teams never sniffed the big game, winning only a single league game under Chow and going winless in his senior year with Skippa Diaz as the head coach. Despite the mounting losses, Coloma was an OIA first teamer three times and All-State as a senior.

9. Jarin Morikawa, 2011-12 Mililani
Morikawa threw for 295 yards in the state semifinals as a senior but lost to Punahou in a blowout to rob him of the chance to play on the final week of the season. Still, Morikawa paved the way for McKenzie Milton and he remains one of 12 quarterbacks with more than 6,000 passing yards in a career and is still Mililani’s single season passing leader with 3,583 yards as a senior.


10. VJ Fehoko, 2007-09 Farrington
Fehoko is one of many Governors who could be on this list as the program is annually one of the best but only reached the final once, in 1990. But Fehoko is the choice because of how agonizingly close he came. His Governors lost a state semifinal game to Kahuku 9-6 in overtime while helping hold Vilami Pasi to 68 yards. The three-time OIA all-star was also on the field for a semifinal loss to Punahou as a junior and a loss to Baldwin in the first round as a sophomore. he was named to the All-State first team twice.

With apologies to Samson Anguay and the hundred others who were left off, feel free to put your nominations in the comments.

COMMENTS

  1. MP November 17, 2016 1:28 pm

    Great List! Got a few Honorable Mentions.
    Kailua – Taleki Mailau & Rocky Alo
    Castle – Jaymason Lee (Shaydon not the same without him).
    Farrington – Tyler Taumua
    Campbell – Clifford Russell & Kaleopa Kaleopa

    Just a few…. Get plenty more!


  2. Jerry Campany November 17, 2016 1:32 pm

    Keep em coming, MP! I am with you on Taumua, too many Farrington greats.


  3. Alpha November 17, 2016 2:28 pm

    Farrington– Tuimaseve, Sooalo, A. Faamasili, Von. Tomas, The Noga’s, Manuwai

    Leilehua– Lauvale Sape


  4. ??? November 17, 2016 3:00 pm

    You win some, You lose some…


  5. Hau’ulaBoy November 17, 2016 3:16 pm

    Samson Satele


  6. Simple Simon November 17, 2016 3:25 pm

    Asterisk alongside ILH players.


  7. Pohakuloa November 17, 2016 3:41 pm

    Throwing in from my side of the world… Kalaheo – Shon Flores, Jacob Espiau, Kekama Emmsley, Shaun Withy-Allen, Kealoha Emmsley. 3 of these were on the 99 UH football roster (there were 4 Mustangs on the field in uniform for the 99 WAC Champs that year), Kealoha Emmsley went on to standout at Boise State.


  8. Chloropicrin November 17, 2016 6:35 pm

    Waianae bangahs

    Chris Paogofie: ’93 lost to Kahuku in OIA title game, ’94 lost to Farrington in OIA semis and ’95 lost to Kahuku in finals.

    George Kauwalu: ’05 lost to Kahuku in state semis, ’06 lost to STL in state semis.

    Both were State DPOY in ’95 and ’06


  9. Chloropicrin November 17, 2016 6:52 pm

    Speaking of Paogofie, Jason Ching out of Punahou was another one. He was highly recruited and committed to ND. He and and Paogofie battled it out in the Prep Bowl preliminary game in ’95.


  10. Chloropicrin November 17, 2016 6:56 pm

    Waianae running back duo of Lono Manners and Peter Sarono… as juniors in ’99 they lost to STL in the quarterfinals of the first ever state tournament, and as seniors in ’00 they lost to STl in the semis.


  11. Jerry Campany November 17, 2016 6:56 pm

    Oooh, good ones. Thanks.


  12. Chloropicrin November 17, 2016 7:02 pm

    Along with Joe Igber, you can add Ed Taamu in 1998, but were the rocks of that Iolani team.


  13. James Hasegawa November 17, 2016 7:34 pm

    Pac-5’s Leroy Lutu, Quincy McCray, Kip Botehlo and the Morales Brothers in 1979 who came one blocked kick away from forcing a playoff game with Kamehameha. Lutu was a beast in what I feel was the greatest period of Hawaii high school sports including: John & Carter Kamana; Johnson Brother for Moanalua Basketball; Dan Hale and so many more. These were my heroes as a child growing up.


  14. Bumbuchas November 17, 2016 8:35 pm

    Shaydon Kehano would have made any QB who could throw decent, look great! Yes, Niko Noga! NG who ran the 100 meters in track!
    Maafala brothers from McKinley HS


  15. AOK November 17, 2016 8:39 pm

    To the guy who mentioned Jason Ching? How about these 3 Puns who played at or around same time: Wes Pratt, Kaeo Vasconcellos, and Afatia Thompson


  16. Alpha November 17, 2016 10:07 pm

    Chad Owens


  17. TheHeartlessPrick November 17, 2016 10:09 pm

    @AOK
    You could add Tafiti Uso to that class of Punahou players.

    In regards to the article. I’m sure there were far more better players than Kehano, Minaya, Morikawa & Anguay. They didn’t even .make their league runner up & they are mentioned in this article.


  18. TheHeartlessPrick November 17, 2016 10:13 pm

    @Alpha

    I would.go Chad Kapanui over Chad Owens..I think Owens made a name for himself after the BYU/Hawaii game. Kapanui was a high school standout


  19. Alpha November 17, 2016 10:27 pm

    @Heartlessprick. . . I don’t think I seen any Na Alii’s. . . How bout Ing Aleaga, or the Liilii’s.


  20. Robert November 17, 2016 11:11 pm

    Wow two sabers mentioned


  21. Pun Alum 95 November 17, 2016 11:26 pm

    Clint Kuboyama – Punahou/Boston College
    Donny Utu – Punahou/Utah
    Tafiti Uso – Punahou/Stanford


  22. Imua94 November 18, 2016 2:13 am

    Brian Ah Yat – QB – Iolani ’94
    Raul Pacheco – WR – Iolani ’94
    Adam Wong – DB – Iolani ’94
    Sean Takamori – DB – Iolani ’94
    Aaron Keo – RB – Kamehameha ’93
    Bryan Fernandez – Kamehameha ’94
    Kala Torco – Kamehameha ’94
    Punahou Aina – LB/TE – Damien ’93
    Jason Mane – WR – Pac5 ’93
    Eleu Kane – WR – Kamehameha ’94
    Wes Pratt – DB – Punahou
    Jason Ching – DL – Punahou
    Jonah Chun – LB – Punahou ’94
    Afa Thompson – RB – Punahou
    Watson Hoohuli – LB – Kamehameha
    Houston Ala – DE – Kamehameha
    Isaiah Alameida – LB – Kamehameha
    Keano Noa – DB – Kamehameha
    Tito Rivera – RB – Leilehua
    Wayne Borges – RB – Waialua
    Andrew Kamano – QB – Roosevelt
    Ivan Waialae – QB – Castle
    Hauoli Wong – OL – Kailua

    …got choke more…


  23. Chloropicrin November 18, 2016 5:50 am

    Punahou during the ’94-’96 had some players. They just couldn’t get out of the ILH. How’s about Iolani and Brian Ah Yat? That’s when they could compete in the ILH and finish runner up behind STL. He went on to play at Montana and CFL ( i think)


  24. Manley November 18, 2016 11:04 am

    Onosai Tanuvasa.


  25. b yagin November 18, 2016 11:23 am

    KAI KAMAKA AND LEFA LAUTI ’91 WAIPAHU


  26. Laie Park November 18, 2016 5:56 pm

    Kennedy Tulimasealii -Waianae


  27. Jerry Campany November 18, 2016 6:26 pm

    Kennedy played in the 2010 final.


  28. Laie Park November 18, 2016 9:37 pm

    Oops. My bad. I stopped following 2010 after the disqualification of Kahuku. 🙂


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