There were many years over the span of Kip Botelho’s career as a head coach when Pac-Five showed again and again that competition with the OIA’s mid-level teams was very good.
Some preseasons, Pac-Five went 2-2 against some good public-school programs. Once in awhile, the Wolfpack went 2-1 or 3-1. Then, ILH play would begin, and it was a mighty mismatclh against deeper, bigger programs that, in today’s era, are in Open Division.
This year, Pac-Five is 4-4, had a chance to win in its four losses, losing by a total of 16 points. Now the Wolfpack has a chance to make some noise in the postseason. The disqualification of ILH Division II champion St. Francis, which rostered and played (in five games) an ineligible player, gave Pac-Five a state-tournament berth.
It just so happens that their matchup on Saturday at Ticky Vasconcellos Stadium will be against OIA champion Roosevelt, a team that escaped with a 17-15 win over the Wolfpack in August on a last-second field goal.
Coach Botelho chatted with Hawaii Prep World on Tuesday.
HPW: The regular season ended, your players turned in their pads and helmets, and it was all done on Oct. 12 after a win at Waialua. Then the news came about St. Francis. That must’ve been surreal.
Botelho: Guys went all back and started playing their other sports so we had a little problem getting them all back.
HPW: It’s been another Pac-Five kind of season, players from various smaller schools, not a lot of size overall.
Botelho: We have Leif (Faitanu) (6-3, 300). He’s one D-I (college) guy and that’s it.
HPW: I’ve seen Leif play basketball for University. He’s pretty good. He has offers from Hawaii and UNLV so far.
Botelho: He hasn’t committed anywhere yet. He got invited to the Poly Bowl so he’s going to wait.
HPW: What’s it like going up against Roosevelt for the first time in three months?
Botelho: They’re a little different from the first time we played them. They’re more of a run-pass option (offense) instead of the (veer) option. They fly around and play hard. We’ve got a young team, a bunch of sophomores all over the place. We start two freshmen. It was three freshmen and one got hurt. A 10th grade QB, 10th grade receivers, 10th grade linemen.
HPW: Are there other benefits to being away from game action for four weeks?
Botelho: The break sure helped. We got guys back from injuries, too.
HPW: When I look at your team’s resume, chock full of close losses. The last-second loss to Roosevelt. Lost 28-24 to McKinley. Lost 19-13 at Pearl City. Lost 31-27 at Kaiser.
Botelho: We had a chance to win every game. I would say it’s more youth. We made a lot of young mistakes and that’s expected. We still have a chance to win. We just didn’t execute down the end.
HPW: Roosevelt loves to run the ball, but will the new wrinkles by both teams make this game unrecognizable from the first one?
Botelho: We watched the tape and both teams are different now. That was our first game. You don’t have everything in offensively and defensively. We were pretty much vanilla. We’ll see. It comes down to executing, basic football, blocking, catching.
HPW: Rocket Uechi has gotten most of the snaps at QB. What’s that process been like? Is he Jet’s brother?
Botelho: Yes. Jet was pretty darn good athlete. Rocket was a lineman last year in intermediate and played both ways. He was a linebacker too. We didn’t have a QB, so we were just auditioning guys. He threw the ball pretty well. Makana (Bertelmann) moved there too. These last few weeks, they equally got reps. They both have different style.
HPW: What do you like about Makana?
Botelho: Makana’s just a good athlete. That’s tough when you get thrown into that situation. He’s mature and he’s one of our captains. He’s a senior. He’s starting at DB too.
HPW: Your RBs all have pretty good averages. Leading rusher Bruce Shewalter around 5 yards per carry. Evan Ramirez at 4 per carry. Laitlin Bradley at 3 and Micah Kong at 4.
Botelho: We were more running the ball, but guys started putting eight guys in the box, so we had to throw it.
HPW: Even with the offense up and down, you’ve stayed in every game.
Botelho: Our defense has been carrying us because we got a bunch of three-year guys there. Our LB corps is probably our strength. Evan has been outstanding. He leads our team in tackles. He’s not the biggest kid either but he ’s so aggressive. He knows how to scrape, how to play position, beats blocks. Laitlin is another backer, with Noah Sumimoto and Chansen Oshiro. They’ve been playing since sophomore year. They also all play offense, they get reps at RB, RB by committee.
HPW: How do you utilize a big, mobile lineman like Leif?
Botelho: Leif is our center and he also plays tackle. He plays defense too. He’s our punter and long snapper, but he’s so valuable as our punter. He rarely comes off the field. Max (Torcia-Burke) also plays LT and DL.
HPW: How tough is it to replicate Roosevelt’s offense for your scout team?
Botelho: With the RPO, we’ve been doing that, getting reps against it this week, but we have to be prepared for both. You’ve got to be disciplined and play your assignment. They’ll just run it and run it until someone messes up.
HPW: Is it tempting to use the same offense that your scout team is working on?
Botelho: Sometimes our scout team is running it so well, but we just need a little time there.