Year 4 has begun for Bryson Carvalho as head coach at Waipahu.
It’s this point when every head coach feels comfortable enough, knowing every player from varsity to JV understands the system, the terminology, the expectations. The culture.
But one thing gnaws at Carvalho, whose Division I Marauders pulled a stunning 34-13 nonleague win over Open Division Waianae last week. Whether it’s complacency or Fortnite or any other aspect, his squad had a ton of academically ineligible players to start this season. The same goes for nearly every other public-school football team, but at Waipahu, academic responsibility is the expectation.
And still, Waipahu persevered. With a bulldozing offensive line, Alfred Failauga rushed for 145 yards and a touchdown as the Marauders took command against the perennial powerhouse Seariders. With a trip to ‘Iolani looming ahead on Saturday afternoon, the Marauders’ 28 strong will be tested by the heat, humidity and sometimes uptempo Raiders offense. The Division I opener will kick off at 3 p.m.
Coach Carvalho chatted with Hawaii Prep World on Wednesday.
HPW: Losing so many established, talented seniors to graduation, it seems improbable that your team could lose players to AP (academic probation) and still beat Waianae.
Bryson Carvalho: The will of our kids, we know how they work. They’ve been there four years. They know what it takes to compete at a high level. The scrimmages really helped us. The kids didn’t see it then because we took a beating against Kahuku, but everyone does. We played them to remind our kids, I didn’t schedule them to lose, but to execute at that level. It was never about “winning” a scrimmage. For kids, it’s difficult because they want to score more touchdowns than the other team, but I want to execute, to have the little victories and turn around and see a bunch of kids who are still in it, not hanging their heads. I wanted to test character and that’s what our program has been about these last four years. Having integrity and doing things right.
HPW: The culture you and your guys established is carrying over. It’s a legacy, it seems.
Carvalho: We compete in every aspect of practice. We have our daily (championship wrestling-style) belt. For myself, too, I’ve been part of the program for a long time. We don’t like being the good D-II team and bad D-I team. That’s been the constant the past decade. It’s a hard transition. We’ve just got to stay true to what’s made us more successful.
HPW: What does it take to rise to a new level?
Carvalho: The guys that were together last year, they were together from youth league when I was running it. At every level, that’s what it takes. Tom Brady and Gronk (Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots), they’ve been together and have a successful chemistry. That’s what made last year’s group special. This year in spring and over summer, our timing was a little off and they kids had to get to know each other. They chose to stay after practice. They chose to go to the park in the spring when we didn’t practice. That’s the kind of things that make teams successful. I did talk to them after a few practices in the spring about how we’re struggling, but they went to Honowai Park and did the extra work, and you could see the chemistry build week after week. We’re still definitely not in postseason model. We have so much to work on and get better, but we’re miles from where we started.
HPW: The stat lines look different, partly because of the AP situation, but it looked straightforward about who was going to get touches, depending on your O-line heavily. Has the offense changed much?
Carvalho: It’s the same offense. We did tweak a few things, a few more formations. By the end of the season, we want to have 15 to 20 different formations, to be able to go into games and use them to our advantage.
HPW: Is it going to be like Boise State, changing personal for each formation?
Carvalho: There’s going to be different personnel. We’ve got to stay a little bit vanilla for now because of our numbers, but we will go into games with different looks. We don’t want to give teams the same look, competition is harder in this division.
HPW: Cody Marques had a superb first start at quarterback. How far along is he in mastering the system?
Carvalho: Cody is still in the process of learning the entire package, whereas Braden (Amorozo) was a veteran. Having Alfred in the backfield next to him makes his job a lot easier, especially with the type of offense we run.
HPW: Coach Wendell Look (of ‘Iolani) jokes that his guys wear medium and your guys are XXL. But I can remember going back to then-coach Sean Saturnio that there were always guys on campus who had size and athleticism, but didn’t want to play football. That seems to have changed.
Carvalho: I think having success kind of does that, but we still have high standards. There are guys on campus we don’t have. You’ve got to be able to commit yourself and be in it from January. We want the kids that can commit. And some kids just want to wait for football pads to come out and that’s too late. I wish we had all of them, but we definitely are winning over more than in years past.
HPW: The Waianae game was decided at the line of scrimmage.
Carvalho: This was really a question mark going into the season. Even now it’s a makeshift line because of guys being out. We’ve got some D-linemen playing O-line. Some have experience, some have none. That’s what impressed me most against Waianae. Every game is won in the trenches, and they stepped up. Hopefully we can ride them along a little bit for one more game.
HPW: So these two-way guys, your ironmen linemen, had to step up and they did. Maybe it’s better this way, but long term, it’s a lot to ask.
Carvalho: That win was a wakeup call to a lot of the guys who didn’t take care of business in the classroom and with team rules. I kinda pinch myself a little bit. The last two years, we didn’t have this problem. Then in January I see guys struggling (academically) and a bunch of guys slipped that last quarter. For me, I want to make sure it never happens again.
HPW: What concerns you most about ‘Iolani?
Carvalho: Their speed, their discipline, they’re very well-coached. They spread the field out and for me, it’s mismatches. Not necessarily, this team beat that team, it’s really how we match up against teams week to week. We’ve got a lot of our secondary out and we’ve had guys on offense going both ways just to put more speed on the field. Going into Waianae, we knew our defensive front would be OK, we knew what they run. Now ‘Iolani spreads the field.
HPW: Who are your ironmen in the trenches?
Carvalho: Left tackle, we have Cameron Sua and left guard, Abraham Montero. Their D-line jersey numbers are 90-something, but they’re wearing 50-something so they can play offensive line and still play D-line. Our center is Savior Iaulualo. Gavin Wonch actually made the full transition in the summer from D-line to right guard. Our right tackle is Navy Ala.
HPW: That’s a huge piece of the puzzle, having guys who can go both ways, maybe play special teams.
Carvalho: It’s good to know that if our numbers ever get down, they’ll be able to help us out. A lot of these kids want to play at the next level and you can’t be picky at that point. If a (college) coach wants you at another position, show them what you got. It’s good experience and game film for them.
HPW: What’s another strength?
Carvalho: Our secondary is outstanding. The real starters are out, though.
HPW: Who’s your kicker?
Carvalho: It’s our returnee, Bryson Amorozo. His range is about 45 yards. He was 2-for-2 in the scrimmage against Damien.
HPW: Both Waipahu and ‘Iolani set up in four wide, but what are the differences?
Carvalho: We’ve expanded our RPO to read backers and secondary. Being able to go home run off RPO is good too. It’s very similar to ‘Iolani. Everything I learned, I’ve asked Ron Lee, Coach Vince Passas. I know Joel Lane is there, a Saint Louis guy kind of thing. Our run game is different, too.
HPW: What would it mean to defeat ‘Iolani?
Carvalho: It would mean a lot for the kids who took care of what they needed to. They worked hard all summer. I told them if we were able to go 2-0 in the circumstances they’re in, that would be awesome.
HPW: By summer, they knew how many of their teammates would be ineligible for the first two games.
Carvalho: Yes. Actually going into battle and coming out with a ‘W’, it’s so gratifying.