17TH IN A SERIES
Radford football coach Lon Passos was blunt when asked what the program’s focus is: “Changing the culture of the team.”
He wasn’t talking about wins and losses, necessarily. He meant the deeper stuff, the unselfishness of playing for your school and giving it your all both on and off the field.
The Rams are 1-16 in the last two years, so Passos is also concentrating on putting some W’s up in the left column. The only win was a 2-0 forfeit over Kaiser last year. There were two close ones on the field last season as well — 21-20 to Moanalua in the regular-season finale, 14-12 to Centennial (Gresham, Ore.) and 33-28 to Castle.
Passos took over before the 2016 season, right after the Rams won the D-II state title in 2015 under Fred Salanoa. There are signs that the program is on the way up. In 2016, Passos’ first season, Radford did not score more than one touchdown in any of its games. Comparitiely, offensive production was not a problem in 2017.
Also, the Rams played St. Francis close to the vest before falling 28-21 in the 2018 nonleague opener Saturday. And while Radford is in D-I and St. Francis is in D-II, it should be noted that the Saints are considered a legit contender in the state’s lowest tier. They barely missed qualifying for states at the D-I level last season before dropping down for ’18.
“The 2017 team had a never-give-up attitude no matter what the outcome was,” said Passos, who is expecting more of the same this season from the Rams.
Passos talked about a handful of players who will be among the leaders this year:
>> Darrellson Masaniai, offensive line: “He’s a three-year starter who was also brought up as a freshman after the JV season. Hard worker.”
>> Ma’a Pase, defensive line: “Played both offensive and defensive lines last year. Will be used mainly on the defensive line.”
>> Matai Suitonu, quarterback, wide receiver, defensive back: “Will be used at multiple positions this year. Very athletic and a hard worker.”
Passos also sees strong performances ahead from two two-year starters — linebacker Joshua Ala and wide receiver Carson Dean.
The Rams (0-1) open the new OIA-ILH Division I alliance at home against Damien on Friday.
Next in series: Pac-Five Wolfpack.