When life gives Kip Botelho lemons, he always makes lemonade.
The Pac-Five football coach faced a dilemma last week. Three offensive linemen suited up for practice and the rest were out with injuries. A fourth OL returned in time for last night’s game. How did they make do? Botelho has spent his career conjuring up ways to stay competitive while lining up hearty young players who don’t have the girth to dominate in the trenches.
That’s why Ferreira, as a first-year starter last season (as a sophomore) had just one basic job as a passer: get the ball out QUICK. That worked with a pass-catching machine like the 6-foot-1 Brennan (now playing college football in Japan) and reliable targets like Sean Kinel. On Friday, those quick hits were not exactly available.
“They took away all our unders,” Botelho said. “We had no choice.”
The no-choice option? Go deep. That’s how Akeo got solo coverage — which probably won’t happen again in D-II competition — and it’s also how 10 of Ferreira’s 19 completions went for 10 yards or more. Despite being flushed out of the pocket with regularity, the nimble QB averaged 7.9 yards per pass attempt, a very solid number at any level.
He avoided the pass rush fairly well, sacked only three times, on average once every 14 times he dropped back to pass.
While much of the state’s fans are spoiled by the quality and depth of talent among premier D-I teams, D-II is like watching chess masters go at it, though without the full arsenal of weapons that big schools are familiar with. For a new-era D-II showdown, historically tough Pac-Five and newcomer St. Francis were as intriguing as it gets.
Especially in D-II. After all, ‘Iolani has owned that classification for years. True, the Raiders aren’t a perfect fit in ILH D-I — right now — but D-II is certainly “One Team” territory with eight state championship trophies. Father Bray would be proud. So would Eddie Hamada.
In this new ‘Iolani-less era, it’s up to Damien, Pac-Five and St. Francis to decide who this season’s ILH D-II champ will be. As always, none are willing to cede a darn thing. Well, if you don’t count the generosity the Wolfpack and Saints displayed on a rainy Friday night at Aloha Stadium.
First, the impressiveness.
>> St. Francis running back Pono Luis-Mateo churned out 80 rushing yards in the first half alone against a stingy Wolfpack defense.
>> Pac-Five wide receiver Chayce Akeo had four catches for 130 yards and two touchdowns before intermission, including TDs of 30 and 85 yards. The days of London Amorin, Darren Kamealoha and Tsubasa Brennan are gone, but the ‘Pack always seems to come up with another playmaker in their receiving corps.
Akeo finished with eight grabs for 165 yards.
>> Kainoa Ferreira is back to last season’s big volume numbers. After sharing time at QB during two preseason tilts, the junior aired out 39 passes despite the rain. He connected on just 19, but with no ground attack — 13 carries for minus-8 yards as a team — the burden fell on the gritty right-handed slinger once again. He came through with three first-half TD tosses and finished with four for the game.
>> St. Francis had three sacks, including 1.5 by one of their iron men,
>> Pensimani Haunga, wearing No. 50, lined up at fullback and rushed for 54 yards on just five carries. He was explosive with carries of 10 yards, 17, 15 and nine before fumbling on his last touch (3-yard gain).
The less impressive.
>> Ferreira was fairly safe for a half and change. Not a single pick in his first 26 pass attempts, and he hit four of his first five throws of the second half. Then this: four second-half interceptions, including three in a stretch of five throws. All simply from trying too hard to make a play. He learned quickly, sort of, and ate the ball rather than risk more turnovers — after throwing the ball to the wrong guy three times. The fourth pick came late in the contest, returned for a TD after the game was out of reach.
>> The Saints finished with 17 yellow flags for 131 yards. The worst part of it isn’t that they were mostly personal fouls, which they mostly weren’t. It’s that they need precise, disciplined line play to succeed in their run-oriented attack. But there were so many second-and-4 scenarios that turned into second-and-9s. That’s OK if you average 5 yards per carry.
St. Francis rushed for 187 yards on 47 carries, just a shade below 4 per rush. Take away most of those 5-yard false starts and it would’ve been a much, much closer game.
>> Where have you gone, Joe Onosai? It’s been some time since the ‘Pack has enjoyed the luxury of a big running back who can 1) bulldoze his way to 5 yards on every touch, and 2) lead block and clear territory for a small scatback. Well, the ‘Pack have a lot of speedy scat backs, but anybody with size is up front, and even then, Coach Kip Botelho has a severe limitation.