FIFTH IN A SERIES
The lowest of the low eras in McKinley football appears to be over.
Under first-year head coach Pat Silva, the team made a huge breakthrough in 2017. The Tigers went 1-7, but got their first victory since the 2013 season. Between 2014 and 2016, McKinley went 0-7, 0-8 and 0-8. It got so bad, the team was forfeiting games due to a lack of turnout.
So, it was a happy day last Sept. 15, when the Tigers scored a 22-0 victory over Waialua. That magic moment almost came earlier, in a 27-26 loss to Kalaheo.
“The biggest accomplishment (so far) this year was cutting down on the amount of players who will be placed on academic probation,” Silva said. “Last year, we had half our varsity roster (15) having to sit out the first few games because they were serving probation. This year, it’s only six players. The other challenge we dealt with was convincing our players to believe in the schemes, which included fundamentals and techniques and the importance of doing it the way they were taught to do it and not the way they want to. This year’s team has bought into the schemes that we plan to implement offensively and defensively.
“The main focus is based on our philosophy:
>> “Number one, working hard. We believe if you work hard and put in the time, a lot of good things can and will happen.”
>> “Number two, that our student-athletes do the best they can. No two players are the same, but if they play within their abilities, that’s all we can ask as a staff.”
>> “Number three, making the right decisions, which includes being role models on and off the field.”
Asked about the team’s core leadership group, Silva mentioned Tamatoa Aga, Iulio Atonio and Jordan Kanakanui.
“They’re the heart and soul of the team,” Silva said. “We are looking at these seniors to step up to the plate, so to speak, in leading this young squad.”
They all go both ways. Aga is a center and linebacker. Atonio is a two-way lineman. Kanakanui is a wide receiver and defensive back.
Some thers to keep an eye on, according to the coach, are quarterback Alexandria Buchanan, who made waves a year ago as a rare female starter at the position and the first in Hawaii, receivers Leon Montgomery, Jayden Victorino-Jay, Brandon Chae and Quincy Barnes, running back Miguel Camacho, and linemen John Pua and Zion Pua.
The Pua brothers, transfers from Alaska, are two-way linemen. Camacho will carry the rushing game’s workload.
“Now that we’ve got our players on board academically,” Silva said, “our players are in the right state of mind, which will hopefully transfer into bigger and better things.”
The Tigers’ first game is Aug. 3 on Maui against King Kekaulike. Their OIA-ILH Division II alliance opener is Aug 11 against St. Francis of the ILH at Ticky Vasconcellos Stadium.
Next in series: Farrington Governors.