Hawaii Prep World will be releasing early summer previews of all 29 Oahu varsity football teams in advance of the 2017 season that kicks off in early August.
THIRD IN A SERIES
AIEA NA ALII
>> 2016 record and finish: 3-6, 2-4 OIA Blue (D-I); lost 42-27 to Leilehua in the OIA D-I playoffs
>> Number of returning starters: 16 (9 offense, 7 defense)
>> Number of returning seniors: 12
>> Number of starters lost to graduation: 10
>> Number of seniors lost to graduation: 22
>> Honolulu Star-Advertiser All-State selections lost to graduation:
>> Honolulu Star-Advertiser All-State selections returning:
>> Among 2017 key offensive returnees: Ty Matsunami, Sr., QB/SE, 5-6, 150; Sam Okamoto, Sr., SB, 5-7, 150; Atarangi Moli, Sr., OL/DE, 5-11, 230; Treau Tupuola Sr., OL/DE, 6-0, 230; Jonathan Pei Jr., OL, 6-1, 240.
>> Among 2017 key defensive returnees: Ferenisi Lualemana, Sr., DT/OL, 5-9, 300; Carlito Capanang, Jr., DB/SE, 5-6, 140; Romance Maae-Liupaono, Jr., LB/RB, 5-11; 190; Austin Mogote, Jr., DB/SB, 5-8, 155; Allen Keohokapu, Sr., DB/RB, 5-8, 155.
>> Na Alii with Division I FBS college offers: None
>> All-time state championships: 1 (2003, D-II)
>> All-time Prep Bowl era (1973 to 1998) championships: None
>> All-time OIA championships: 1 (2003, D-II)
>> 2017 conference: OIA Blue (D-I)
>> 2017 state tournament declaration: Division I-Open
Head coach WENDELL SAY on Na Alii’s outlook for 2017:
“I think we’re headed in right direction. Team-wise, the trip we took (to Centennial, Ore.) last year, we bonded a lot … and we were in a lot of games that could have gone either way. We gotta get over that hump. We were young last year, with a lot of sophomores starting. This year, that experience hopefully will carry them over. I like what I see with our kids. As in previous years, we don’t have numbers, so we gotta stay healthy. We’ll be as good as any of the teams we face with whatever 11 we put out on the field.
“In our program, we have been building our kids to be better people. Our “Coaching Boys Into Men” program has been a success. We teach every week about how to be better men. Bigger and stronger doesn’t give you a right to bully people or abuse women. We’ve done this program for seven years. The kids know what we expect out of them. It is one of the most positive things about our program.
“The hard part is that our school has shrunk in the past four years. We’re barely over 1,000 students and we’re going against schools who have 2,000 or 3,000 students. If we were in D-II, we could compete for championships. But we’re teaching our kids to compete, whether in athletics or in a job.
“During summer, are numbers are small. Last year, our JV had to forfeit games. A lot of kids didn’t come out. It comes down to the fact that they need to come out now and not wait until July. Nowadays, and this year is no different, a lot of kids don’t come out until later. That’s the scary part. On paper, we have a lot of numbers. Ninety kids signed up, not including eighth graders coming in. But then, the actual numbers coming out now in the offseason, that’s different. I come from a different time, I guess. The other sport … play all the sports you want, I tell them. This is the only chance you get. But now, a lot of different sports go year-round — basketball, baseball, soccer volleyball. Coaches are trying to get the kids to specialize. But it’s going to be football season, so (some of these) kids should play football. When they changed volleyball season to the spring, you started seeing 6-3, 200- or 300-pound kids playing club volleyball in the summer. But football is next. We previously had a basketball coach that would tell his players to come out for football and not play club basketball in the summer. Get tougher, he would tell them. If I was their coach, I would recommend that they come out for football. Share the athletes. Are you gonna wrestle in this outside league? For what?
“We’re excited about the season. I’m an optimistic person. Every year, we’ve got a chance. We need to stay healthy academically and physically. Other schools have that same problem. When you play in D-I, the health part is always a concern because of the teams you play. With our kids, you can say we’re competitive. Even against Kahuku, one half we were OK. After that, the physicality wears in. A few years ago, we played Kahuku for the JV title and Kahuku had to come from behind to win. The fans thought we were a Pop Warner team, but the kids did a great job. Schools like us and Moanalua have a chance in D-I in the state tournament. Schools like Mililani, Farrington, Kapolei, Waianae, Campbell belong in the Open no matter what. Put them in the D-I tournament and they’re going to win.
“We lose kids to other schools. Some kids take that route, become unhappy and come back and then they’ve got to sit out. I know some kids who transferred to sit on the bench when they would have started here. The grass is not always greener on the other side. Stay home, water the grass and it could be fine. (Former Waianae coach) Larry Ginoza used to tell me to put a fence around Aiea and I wouldn’t have to worry.
“Yeah, you want to win every game, make it to the playoffs and learn to become better people. But three years ago, we played Mililani in our last game and were trying to make the playoffs. I had just kicked some kids off the team during a bye week. They had missed practice. We played well, but lost. After the game, I told our kids that I was sorry they didn’t make the playoffs. They said, ‘No coach, we had a great year.’ That was their so-called championship.”
2017 Aiea football schedule
Subject to change. Click here for the latest schedule updates.
Thursday, July 27
>> Aiea at McKinley (scrimmage)
Friday, Aug. 4
>> Aiea at Kailua (scrimmage)
Saturday, Aug. 12
>> Nanakuli at Aiea
Saturday, Aug. 19
>> Aiea at Campbell
Friday, Aug. 25
>> Aiea at Radford
Friday, Sept. 1
>> Kahuku at Aiea
Friday, Sept. 8
>> Kaiser at Aiea
Friday, Sept. 15
>> Moanalua at Aiea
Friday, Sept. 22
>> Aiea at Waianae
2017 Aiea varsity football staff
>> Head coach: Wendell Say (27th season, 125-121-1)
>> Offensive coordinator: Al Viloria
>> Defensive coordinator: Pita Tanuvasa
>> Team coordinator: Leona Kaapuni
>> Offensive line: Zac Mauga, Brian Kealoha, Kana Jennings
>> Receivers: Kama McKeague, Nelson Maeda
>> Running backs: Al Distajo
>> Linebackers: Chris Taiese, Rexy Kolone
>> Defensive backs: Hoku Kama, Ed Kama, Al Sefronio
>> Defensive line: Ben Morn, Donte Jones