SECOND IN A SERIES
Some coaches are more concerned with the fringe benefits of sports than what happens between the sidelines: making young men out of kids.
Every year, Leilehua’s football coaches talk during their preseason interviews more about the classroom than X’s and O’s. That’s the case again this year with third-year head coach Mark Kurisu, just like it was before him with Nolan Tokuda.
“One thing we live by is the three F’s — faith, family and future,” Kurisu said. “The kids are buying into being good, young men, being student-athletes. We still hold players to our 3.0 rule. And we have players participate in community service. The goal is 15-hours plus during the season. From there, the future part is about making good choices, so their parents and school and community can be proud of them. They make choices on the field and we teach that those choices should be benefiting themselves and their teammates. To be more selfless. Confident but humble.”
The Leilehua program is being noticed, Kurisu said.
“Last year, every single game except one was televised. We’ve garnered a lot of respect from the community. They wanted to watch us play. We are undersized, but we inspired a lot of people. It shows that it doesn’t matter what you look like or what other people think, it’s about what you believe in and if you do that, you can do something special. If we do everything right, football is going to be easy. Taking care of the character side at home and school, athletes will find football is going to be more of a piece of cake. We don’t talk a lot about our record or how well we’re going to do.”
Kurisu believes his Mules shocked some people last season, going 6-3 and losing 10-6 in the first round of the league playoffs to a tough Campbell squad.
“No matter who we played, we were the smallest,” the coach said. “Even in a 24-0 loss to Kahuku, a lot of people were surprised that we were down only 10-0 at the end of the third quarter. We had one bad game, against Mililani (47-0 loss) when we let the moment get to us. But that game helped us find our identity as an offense and a defense. We proved we could get the job done. The coaches did their part to get players to believe and play at a high level.”
Kurisu, like many other coaches on Oahu, is fully excited about the new OIA-ILH alliance.
“Everybody can’t wait for it,” he said. “Some seasons, we were playing six or seven games. Now we get 10. That just helps our athletes on all of our teams appreciate it more. They’re going to be rewarded with more time together. Before, you were fighting for a playoff spot after five games. Now, after five games, you’ve got five more to go.
“You’ve got Saint Louis vs. Kahuku, and Punahou at Waianae and this is the regular season. ‘Iolani’s going to play Waipahu, and Damien is going to play Kailua. It lends itself to better football. There will be no easy game in any division. And it helps all of Hawaii. Saint Louis is already 12th in the nation, so it’s going to build even more.”
Kurisu pointed to five players who are among the team’s leaders, and this is what he had to say about them:
>> Max Nichols, quarterback: “He started a couple of games for us and he has proven he can lead the team. He’s a very intellectual guy who is able to process things in his head. He kind of sees what (quarterbacks coach Andrew Manley) wants him to see. He’s got a big arm and gets the ball there. We believe he can make the throws.”
>> James McGary, running back: “He led the (West) division in rushing. He’s an effort guy who plays at a high level. He’s full speed and very fast, a track guy. He’s a yes coach, no coach type of guy. He gets the tough yards — everything up the middle and that takes a lot of guts.”
>> Jeremy Evans, wide receiver: “He was one of the top receivers in the whole OIA, a playmaker and a fun guy to be around. He’s the clown of the offense and makes others laugh and smile. He flexes his muscles to let us know he’s been working out. He’s also an academic guy with really good grades. He has every tool in the box to play at the next level. He’ll be a name to look out for this season.”
>> Dorian Furtado, slotback: He was second-team all-conference. We call him the silent assassin, another track guy. He just make plays. By the end of the game, he’s the guy who has 80 or 100 yards or eight or nine catches. He catches people off guard. He’s unassuming. He doesn’t have the size. He’s just one of those fast, tough Wahiawa kids and you want to put the ball in his hands. He makes a lot of clutch catches. A lot of first-down plays. If you’re double-teaming Jeremy or stacking the box on James, the slot becomes a big receiver for us.”
>> Jaeden Chow, defensive end: “You look at him and you probably wonder why he’s not playing DB instead of playing D-end. He has come a long way and has stepped out of the shadow of Braxton Victor, who was a very good defensive end for us and has graduated. Jaeden played on the opposite side from Braxton, but he played against the biggest tackles from Kapolei, Kahuku, Mililani and St. Francis. He not only did his job, but he wreaked havoc. This year, he has worked on picking up his weight. He’s a track guy, too. Explosive.”
The Mules will play in Division I (second tier) of the new OIA-ILH alliance. They open at home with a nonleague game against Open Division foe Farrington on Aug. 3.
Leilehua’s first alliance game is at Kailua on Aug. 10.
Next in series: Kaimuku Bulldogs.
Next in series: Kaimuki Bulldogs.
Previously: Kahuku Red Raiders.