Apologies to Mr. Tupinio.
When Leilehua Mule player No. 1 flung a perfect spiral downfield on the second play of the game for a touchdown, credit went to No. 1 on the roster. That’s Russell Siavii.
However, coach Nolan Tokuda reports this morning that it wasn’t Siavii, who normally plays defense.
Apparently, the Mules now have two players wearing jersey No. 1. The other, baseball player and former defensive end Melvin Tupinio, was the rocket launcher on Leilehua’s stunning first touchdown in a 24-17 win at Radford on Friday.
The gadget play, which Leilehua last used in 2008 against Kahuku, involves a quick lateral toss to the slot, who catches it in the backfield near the sideline before heaving the ball. He found Darrien Shealy wide open for a 73-yard bomb.
The play exposed a tendency in Radford’s normally stellar defensive unit, as Tokuda saw in the Rams’ win at Campbell last week.
“They play man and their corners peak in,” Tokuda said. “They’re a team that flies to the ball.”
Tupinio, now a slotback, was put into the mix for the gadget play on Monday. He plays roughly one-third of the team’s snaps.
“Melvin’s reaction was, ‘Yeah, coach, I can do this,’ ” Tokuda said. “I told him, ‘You only get one shot at it. You have to make the most of the opportunity.’ ”
What makes Leilehua’s version of the play a bit unusual is that Tupinio, as a left-hander, can catch the ball on the right side and throw almost immediately. He doesn’t have to turn around to get his footing, and that one or two seconds is, ultimately, very valuable.
“Now it’s in the back of other defensive coordinators’ minds,” Tokuda said. “He doesn’t need to square his shoulders.”
Fred Padrones had another solid performance for the Mules with his legs. He handled punting duties and caught four passes for 81 yards, including a 58-yarder in the fourth quarter to swing field position in Leilehua’s favor.
Leilehua’s unique stand-up defensive postures caused some problems for Radford quarterback Maika Ulufale (15-for-31, 183 yards, two picks, one touchdown). At one point, on a key third down, the Mules brought both outside linebackers to the line of scrimmage, joining several teammates who were also in stand-up position.
Radford was whistled for delay of game.
Reece Acohido had two of Leilehua’s four sacks. Cody Estores and Cornelius Fitiausi also had sacks.
Troy Evans, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound defensive end, had a sack and fumble recovery for Radford. Travir Fata and Krix Hughley also had sacks, and versatile Dorsey Norris had an interception for the second week in a row.
Paul Honda, Star-Advertiser