Some of the state’s top skill-position college prospects, including Saint Louis quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and Kahuku defensive back Keala Santiago, will play in the Hawaii 7s this weekend at Aiea High School field.
The 7-on-7 pass-league style tournament has eight teams from Oahu and the Big Island. Darren Johnson, former head football coach at Kailua, is coordinating the two-day event. It begins on Friday and the championship game will be played at around 1 p.m. on Saturday.
Participating teams include Aiea, Hilo, Kaiser, Kamehameha-Hawaii, Kapolei, Moanalua, Pearl City and Radford.
“Every one of the coaches has been named coach of the year at one time or another. It’s amazing. All good people and good coaches,” Johnson said.
The favorite appears to be Hukilau Cafe, which competed in a 7v7 tourney in Las Vegas the past two years. That team features Tagovailoa, a junior-to-be who already has 15 scholarship offers and was recently upgraded to the nation’s Top 300 players list by Scout.com.
Santiago’s prowess as a kick returner won’t be on display in this format, but his ability on defensive coverage has earned him five offers. Hirkley Latu of Kahuku, a rangy 6-foot-4 outside linebacker, has seven offers. Wide receiver Kamoku Noa (Kamehameha) has been a clutch performer, Johnson said. A diamond in the rough is sophomore safety Isaiah Tufaga of Saint Louis.
Johnson made two comparisons before settling on one when it came to Tufaga, who is from the North Shore.
“He’s like a Leonard Peters. No, an Al Afalava. Good looking kid. He gets good position and breaks on the ball good. He sees the field,” Johnson said. “I could say he plays like his dad (Wes). He understands the game.”
The tournament format includes two games played simultaneously on the field, said Johnson, who is not coaching.
“We’re hoping to grow the event,” he said.