Star-Advertiser Preseason Top 10 Countdown
Today: No. 8 Waianae
It came from just about everyone at practice on Wednesday.
Head coach Walter Young talked about it. Quarterback Jaren Ulu was excited for it. Even a few supporters of the football team watching the approximately 160 varsity and junior varsity football players working out at Raymond Torii Field were quick to point out a new dimension to the Waianae offense.
“This team is going to throw it a little bit,” one person exclaimed to a reporter walking by. “You watch.”
Just like a leopard can’t change its spots, Waianae sure isn’t going to get away from what it does best. Five players had at least 48 carries last year and six different Seariders rushed for at least 220 yards. Don’t expect that commitment to the run game to change.
However, Young and his staff have some playmakers on offense to work with this season, led by Ulu, a returning senior quarterback who threw for 1,061 yards and nine touchdowns last season. Receiver Isaiah Freeney, who turned a modest 23 receptions into 611 receiving yards and six touchdowns, is back as well as three of Waianae’s top five rushers from last season. There are also a couple of newcomers from the junior varsity team that has Ulu pumped for the season opener against Kamehameha next weekend.
“Can’t wait to get out there against Kamehameha and see what this passing game can do,” Ulu said.
Ulu spent time this summer working at Saint Louis QB coach Vince Passas‘ camp and also participated in the All-Poly camp and a camp in Oregon.
Young raved about Ulu’s improved footwork and said his quarterback has done everything he could to make his senior season a special one.
“He’s going to move around in the pocket a lot better and he’s done what he’s had to do to become a better quarterback and help us out,” Young said.
The Seariders went 9-4 in Young’s first season last year and steadily got better as the season went on. A 20-19 win over Farrington in the OIA third-place game broke a five-year drought for the Seariders between state tournament appearances. The season ended with a hard-fought 13-0 loss to eventual state champion Kahuku in a game that featured no offensive touchdowns. Waianae trailed just 3-0 in the half and its defense only gave up two field goals to Kahuku. The only touchdown scores was on an interception return.
“We was able to scout them and go out there and do some better things than the first time (a 30-0 loss in the regular season),” Young said. “We don’t take nothing away from Kahuku because they were very good but we saw what we could do when we adjust and do some of the things we want to do and now we want to carry that into this season and see it even more.”
That late-season run to the state semifinals is something that Ulu hopes will spur this year’s team on to make it even further.
“I think us making it to the state semifinals last year actually gave us and our whole community a lot of hope in our football program again,” Ulu said. “The past year we haven’t been doing great and we hadn’t been to states in a long time so it felt good to have it back.”