After two weeks, there are positions still to be solidified and adjustments to be made. But Nanakuli coach Keala Watson sees the Golden Hawks moving in a positive direction.
Nanakuli fell to 0-2 overall with a 27-14 home loss to Aiea on Friday in the OIA opener for both teams. The Golden Hawks scored on the game’s opening possession but couldn’t quite keep up with an efficient Aiea passing game that relied on short throws to move the chains.
After a 20-12 nonconference loss to Waipahu followed by Friday’s defeat, the Golden Hawks have a bye week to regroup before continuing their transition season to the Division I level after a successful run at Division II.
“One of the great things I like is because of the push up to D-I our guys have pushed themselves up,” Watson said. “We’re just one or two plays away, one or two assignments away from making plays, and those are things that can be fixed and adjusted. I’m sitting pretty well with where we are as a team.”
Before facing Leilehua on Aug. 27, Nanakuli will have a week off to implement those tweaks on both sides of the ball and get closer to full strength. Watson said the Hawks were missing close to a dozen players on Friday due to injuries or academics.
“In certain places we’re still patching pukas,” Watson said.
Even so, Watson said he’s also impressed with the performances of those forced into more prominent roles.
He’d like to get enough depth on defense to keep quarterback Nainoa Banks from having to play on both sides of the ball. Operating the Hawks’ option offense, Banks kept the ball 20 times for 79 rushing yards. He completed 4 of 14 passes for 27 yards and caught a 15-yard pass as Nanakuli attempted a comeback in the fourth quarter.
After Nanakuli closed to 21-14 on Banks’ 3-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter, Aiea responded with a 12-play drive to extend the lead again. The Hawks drove deep into Aiea territory with the aid of a pass interference call that wiped out an Aiea interception on fourth down. But Na Alii held firm against three runs from their 5 and Banks’ fourth-down pass into the end zone was ruled incomplete when Nick Souza-Meyers landed out of bounds while making the catch.
Aiea went three-and-out, but took off enough time to secure the win.
“There were a few plays … that turned the tide of the game,” Watson said. “We could have easily been up and up or one score down. There were some turnovers, goalline stands, we dropped the ball with some penalties. … But I like where we’re going.”