Kaimuki coach David Tautofi wanted to challenge his squad during fall camp.
The Bulldogs didn’t have to travel very far to find the toughest challenge in the state, going just up the road to face nationally-ranked Saint Louis on Saturday morning for a controlled scrimmage.
The matchup was also a chance for Jayden Maiava, the Bulldogs’ highly-touted 6-foot-4 rookie quarterback, to see live action against the feared Crusaders defense. Maiava played his freshman season for Sierra Vista (Nev.), where he actually played against Kaimuki and took the Bulldogs down with two late touchdowns. During that matchup last fall, he entered in relief of Jordan Solomon, who coincidentally is another former Bulldog.
Maiava left for Las Vegas two years ago and returned with offers from Auburn and Tennessee in hand, with other schools showing interest.
“I don’t try to think about it too much,” the unassuming Maiava said. “I don’t really brag too much about it, I’m just really thankful these schools are looking at me.”
Even as he played against the Bulldogs, he and Tautofi agree that his heart still resided in Kaimuki.
“(Maiava’s return) is a big thing for sure. But at the same time, Jayden’s my nephew and he’s been my waterboy since he was in the sixth grade,” Tautofi said. “He’s experienced the highs and lows of Kaimuki football from when I was first here five years ago, and the competitive nature.
“He’s seen a lot of what goes on here and he wanted to play at least one season for Kaimuki so it means a lot. He’s like a son to me. At the same time, he means a lot to the team, too. These boys are all close.”
Like most sophomores, the 6-foot-4 Maiava still has plenty of room to grow. He had his moments on Saturday against the Crusaders, but also struggled at times against a mighty defense already in midseason form. No interceptions were thrown by Maiava, but some targets were missed via overthrows and/or miscommunications.
“It was a good experience. It was a good opportunity to get some reps and fix some mistakes, Maiava said. “(Facing Saint Louis) helped us so much. We made some mistakes but we’ll just learn from them and get better from there.”
The Crusaders had no trouble scoring in the first part of the scrimmage. After a break, both teams took turns running plays against each other from the 10-yard line. Maiava threw his first touchdown pass during the second session on a play-action rollout to the left. The Bulldogs defense also forced two interceptions in that period, something Tautofi knows the unit can build off of.
Saint Louis marked the third scrimmage in as many days for the Bulldogs, who went up against Open Division Campbell and Division I Damien on Thursday night. The competition was stiff by design for the Division II Bulldogs, who Tautofi said suited up 18 players against the Crusaders on Saturday.
“It’s gotten us better, period. Just the fact that the boys managed to step on the field and go against one of the best teams in the land to see what we can do,” Tautofi said of facing Saint Louis. “It’s always a privilege and honor, knowing the legacy that (coach) Cal (Lee) has and what he’s done with his program, and they’re still the team to beat.
“It’s definitely an honor that he would even consider a scrimmage with us. This is the third time he’s done a scrimmage with us so it’s a blessing. Every time they’ve done a scrimmage with us, it’s helped us, especially in the beginning of the season.”
The Bulldogs exit the tail end of their fall camp bettered by the experience. Tautofi said the team woke up at 4 this morning for 4:30 a.m. conditioning.
“The physical part is there, but the part that made them better is the mental part. You’re getting kids in shape physically but mentally, too,” he said. “They’re gaining a lot from it. They kept their composure today. Some players are dinged up but we got two weeks now to prepare for Pac-Five. We’re excited to look at the film. It’s definitely a good thing for us.”
Maiava’s addition won’t change the identity of the team, as Tautofi says its “heart and soul” has always been in the trenches.
Still, the homecoming is a long time coming for Maiava, whose relatives include former Kahuku quarterback Sol-Jay Maiava, who is a cousin.
“I missed the weather, the food,” he said. “It’s just good to be back. It feels really good.”
North Shore relatives aside, Jayden Maiava is a Kaimuki kid through and through. In 2019, he’s suiting up for the team he was destined to play for.
“There’s a lot of things he can work on here to get him on the right track, just like we did with Sama (Paama),” Tautofi said. “There was a benefit on both sides of it, especially for him. He wanted to play for his home town, his home school. He always wanted to be a Bulldog.”