Moanalua’s Alaka‘i Yuen and Ryan Ramones had a night to remember Friday.
And, even better, they did it against their former coach and can now give him some friendly ribbing … like forever.
But that coach, Arnold Martinez, who is now the head man at Kaiser, knows what he was up against, and making matters worse, he only had 25 players suited up.
While Yuen, the quarterback, and Ramones, the receiver, hooked up 10 times for 228 yards and four touchdowns, the Cougars struggled to move the ball.
Martinez took over the Kaiser program after the recent departures of Cameron Higgins, and before him, Rich Miano. It’s a reclamation project of sorts. The former California junior college coach and a radio football broadcaster here, Martinez knows his football.
And he knows that any time you’ve got only 25 players, it’s an uphill battle.
Still, it was sweet for Yuen to beat his old coach.
“We wanted to let him know (that we’re a good team),” the quarterback said after the game, while holding his toddler nephew, Tekoha.
Beating Kaiser (2-4, 1-4 OIA Blue) is one thing, beating the teams at the top of the food chain is another. Yuen and Moanalua first-year head coach Savaii Eselu are well aware of this.
Are Na Menehune (3-2, 2-2) ready for what’s next?
“We are very ready,” Yuen said. “We’ve been practicing since February with our new head coach. We’ve been busting our butts. A couple of games, we came up short, but we’re trying to pick things back up, regrouping ourselves, so when it comes playoff time, we know what to do and know how to prepare.”
The rest of the regular-season schedule is not easy – at Campbell and at home against Kahuku and Aiea.
“We’ve been playing good ball,” Eselu said. “But when you come across teams like Campbell, Kahuku, all those guys, they are more than seasoned. We’re kind of like the new cats on the block. It’s more so that we need to be tough and stout up front because that’s where it’s going to happen.”
Interesting. The trenches. Not something Moanalua is known for. But Yuen had lots of time against Kaiser and the defensive front held the Cougars to 17 yards rushing, so maybe Na Menehune are ready to step up to the plate in that department.
“There were some times when we did falter up front,” Eselu said about his linemen against Kaiser. “But we were trying new things in preparation for the bigger dogs. I don’t want to jump the gun too early. We’ll see where the chips fall, but we always have that in the back of our heads that this is going to be a big deal going against more prominent teams.”
In other words, you don’t know how good Moanalua is until you play against them. It’s possible that this middle of the road team is ready to step forward.
But, like Eselu said, he’s not jumping the gun. It’s a long road between the middle of the pack to becoming a true contender. And this would be a fine year to do it. If Na Menehune can get to the OIA quarterfinals, they would be assured of a berth in either the Open division or Division I state tournament.
Martinez was impressed.
“They (Na Menehune) are doing a great job,” he said. “They’ve got great athletes and they’re playing together. When you play smart and play together, you can do some good things.”
Some Moanalua fans watched in horror as the score was revealed in the Kahuku at Radford game. The final: Kahuku 83, Radford 0.
Those Red Raiders, who will be visiting Moanalua in two weeks, are ranked No. 17 in the USA Today Super 25 and No. 1 in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser Top 10. They are the defending state Division I state champions.
Kaiser’s Andrew Kaufusi, who punted, played running back, quarterback and linebacker against Moanalua, is a believer that Moanalua is a solid team that could go far.
“They are (a good team),” he said. “Hands down. They may be small, but I have the utmost respect for them, and they’re really good guys.”
Good guys. That goes back to the Martinez Moanalua days, too.
“I have mixed emotions, obviously,” Martinez said about coaching against his former team. “A lot of our (he and his family) lives were invested here. A lot of great people here, and just seeing the kids. These were my freshmen when I was done here. They came up and were saying, ‘I love you coach.’ They’re special guys.”
The end of the season is coming fast. As they say, Moanalua “got chance.”
Is Eselu bringing the magic?
Or will the team sputter right about the time it sputters every year?
And like he said, “We’ll see where the chips fall.”
Isaiah Jackson had two of Moanalua’s four interceptions. Brandon Bender and Lennon Sullivan had the others. Kaiser’s Antonio Omphrey had the only pick of Yuen on the night.
Tyson Creekmur had two sacks and another tackle for loss for the Cougars.
Tyler Souci, Miah Sauvao and Tre’quan Henderson recorded sacks for Na Menehune.