One of the constants of Leeward Oahu has been and probably always will be Waianae football. From the Pee Wees of Pop Warner (Waianae Tigers) on up to the high school, there’s a certain consistency and tradition, coaching and community pride, that is all part of the time-capsule brand of teamwork that endures.
But there’s always something unexpected with high schoolers. Rico Rosario, a bedrock of stability on the offensive side of the ball, nearly upset the cart when he wondered (aloud) about transferring to Liberty (Nevada) in a quest for more exposure and college opportunities. Since changing his mind after that dalliance — his biggest factors were to stay home for his teammates and the Waianae community, as well as his girlfriend — the Seariders have been more than able to focus on the tough road ahead. After all, even with 30 returning players, the majority of last year’s starters graduated.
Talent abounds, but learning to function and excel at the elite level of Division I varsity football requires game reps. There is simply no substitute, and all of Waianae’s coaches and returning starters understand this.
The Seariders enter the season ranked No. 5 in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser preseason top 10.
Two years ago, a talented returning offensive producer at Saint Louis understood his team’s situation perfectly well. Tua Tagovailoa accepted the inexperience and practice patience as his receiving corps developed one snap at a time. Rosario and his fellow returnees in the backfield will endure, as well, as their offensive line learns on the job.
“Those are my brothers who will be on the field next to me, so I trust them. We’ve just got to go out there and do our thing,” Rosario said. “Just ball.”
While the offense has a cautious optimism, the Seariders’ defense has plenty of energy and experience in comparison. Defensive coordinator Ryan Lancaster is heavily invested on a daily, hourly, by-the-minute way. His enthusiasm and encouragement never seem to end, though it never hurts to have standouts like Star-Advertiser All-State player Kana‘i Mauga healthy and excited even through the 90-degree doldrums of late July practice.
“It’s a luxury having Kana‘i because of who he is. He can play multiple positions,” Lancaster said of Mauga, who has double-digit college offers and is leaning toward USC. “He can be at the edge, but he might be at mike, but yes, he’s a natural off the edge.”
Lancaster is fully stoked about his line as a whole, but he keeps his eyes wide open as preseason games near.
“We’ve got a bunch I like, but who I trust is another story. Of course, that could change,” he said.
Waianae lost high-motor, highly-skilled defenders like LB Jaylen Gonzales and DTs Brandon Hattori and Feletoa Ailua to graduation.
“Everybody’s hard to replace. I”m emotional about it because of who those guys are,” he said. “But we’ve got returning DTs in Andrew (Paese) and Dayne (Evangelista).”
Third-year MLB Toto Mailo is the glue guy.
“He’s a ball hawk, very aggressive and coachable. He’s very unique,” Lancaster said of Mailo, who has a 3.5 grade-point average and has an offer from Virginia Union.