The ripple effect of Keoni Serikawa’s injury puts the Kailua Surfriders in prep football crisis mode, it would seem.
Serikawa went down with an apparent broken collarbone during the first quarter of their 42-7 loss to Farrington on Saturday. It happened quietly; nobody in the press box noticed it. During Kailua’s second series, he took a sack for a 6-yard loss, and on third down, Serikawa’s pass to running back Mark Lagazo fell incomplete.
No one but the Surfriders knew from that point that Serikawa was done for the night. This was the immediate effect:
1. Lagazo, who had rushed for 100 yards and added 82 receiving yards a week ago in a win over Moanalua, moved to QB.
2. That left Kailua without a key playmaker at RB, though reserve Kealoha Hanawahine-Wong will certainly get more chances to prove what he can do. He rushed for 4 yards on four carries against a stout Farrington defense.
3. Kailua also lost the services of Lagazo as a kickoff returner. Leading into their second series, when Serikawa got hurt, Lagazo had returned a kickoff 27 yards. In four other kickoff returns by two Surfriders, they averaged 12.3 yards per runback.
The result: Kailua finished the game with 3 yards of total offense, but credit a balanced, highly-motivated Farrington defense. Also, Kailua’s difficult adjustment after Serikawa’s injury didn’t feel entirely flat. Lagazo’s relentless quest to make plays with his feet kept Farrington’s defense on the chase again and again. He probably ran 150 to 200 yards from sideline to sideline during his 21 carries. He netted 43 rushing yards.
He ran out of the shotgun on drop backs, but he also ran Wildcat style at times, as did Hanawahine-Wong. Coach Joe Wong didn’t have any reservations about Lagazo in the pocket, but all the running had the second-year head coach wary.
“I didn’t want him taking too much of a pounding,” the coach said. “We knew we had to start throwing the ball.”
That’s where Lagazo showed that he’s more than just a Wildcat guy. Though his numbers — 3-for-12, 18 yards, one pick — don’t show it, he was more than just a running back taking snaps. He was more than effective on left-side rollouts. Kailua’s lone TD came on a Lagazo run and throw across his body to the middle of the field. Whether Christian Mejia can become more of a force on offense — the 6-foot-4 senior with a 36-inch vertical leap plays every down at defensive end — remains to be seen. But that play showed the Lagazo already has good chemistry with the talented, two-sport standout (who has a scholarship offer from Hawaii among others).
With Wong’s blessing, Lagazo took to the air much more after halftime and got to test his IQ as a passer. He targeted six different teammates, and though he did get picked off by sneaky-quick Farrington linebacker Freedom Alualu early in the second half, Lagazo was a low-risk, potentially high-percentage passer.
“We’ve got to get Mark accustomed to the pass. He progressed fine as the game went on,” Wong said. “He made some good throws, made some good reads. We’ve just got to make the plays when he makes the pass.”
There will undoubtedly be room for more personnel moves between now and Kailua’s next game at Nanakuli. It probably won’t come from the junior varsity, which suited up just 23 players against Farrington’s JV.
The puzzle is challenging enough for any head coach, but removing a key piece like Serikawa will have the Surfriders’ staff engaged in a brave new world. Serikawa’s game stats against Moanalua: 7-for-12, 105 yards, no picks. That’s game management material, and that’s all Wong and his staff wanted at this point, knowing that Serikawa could blossom with more experience.
It’s what Serikawa’s presence did for his teammates — the 182 combined yards by Lagazo as a RB last week — that will be missed. There will be, maybe, a new chapter added to the playbook featuring the possibilities of what Lagazo could do. After all, he showed nice footwork on a couple of option plays, though neither resulted in a pitchout. What Lagazo has to offer, besides loads of speed and talent, is pure football IQ. He started at cornerback last year, played RB sparingly, and is now at QB and playing competently. He has escapabililty, though Wong isn’t interested in putting Lagazo into harm’s way often.
This will be, for the ‘Riders, quite a test, from the top of the roster to the bottom. What the staff comes up with in these next few days and weeks could be magical, even in the face of simply trying to survive.