(Here’s the longer version of the preview story from this morning’s Star-Advertiser.)
The advent of the newfangled forward pass always had its share of critics.
That’s right, there once was a time when most coaches gladly tormented their new-age colleagues for trusting such a thing. Put the ball into the air where wind and rain can foil a season of hopes?
Even the iconic Dick Tomey — yes, the then-UH football coach who commanded a statewide audience on Sunday afternoons with his weekly TV show — once noted that three things happen when you throw a football. Two of them, incompletions and interceptions, are bad.
But it’s not the art of passing itself that’s so difficult to defend. The numbers bear it out to an extent. Daicorri Briscoe, a tremendous playmaker at Pearl City, has a state-high 24 receptions for 454 yards and three touchdowns. At 113.5 yards per game and 18.9 yards per catch, it would seem things are going well for the 5-foot-11, 175-pound senior and the Chargers.
But no. Briscoe has had to work extremely hard to score. Two of the touchdowns were of 92 and 85 yards. The 92 yarder was a screen pass that he maneuvered into a score. And Pearl City, which is competitive despite the departure of several key transfers, is 0-4.
There’s Dylan Pakau, another deep threat who, like Briscoe, has confounded defensive coordinators by getting open often enough. The Waipahu senior has 12 catches for 359 yards, an average just shy of 30 yards per catch. His four touchdowns by air are plenty, but he gave it an extra effort, as usual, against Kapolei by returning a punt for a touchdown.
And yet, the Marauders are 1-3 after close losses to ‘Iolani and Campbell, both Top 10 teams.
Of course, there are moving targets like first-year starter Kanawai Noa of Punahou. The sleek sophomore leads the state with 459 receiving yards on 21 receptions. His six touchdown grabs are astounding considering the attention he has warranted in Punahou’s pass-happy attack.
At Konawaena, the arrival of Cliff Walters and family (who make up a chunk of his staff) brought the implementation of a pass-friendly attack. That’s made live targets out of Kenan Gaspar (13 receptions, 326 yards, four touchdowns) and Domonic Morris (14, 297, five) for quarterback Kahoali‘i Karratti.
Konawaena is 3-1 and ranked in the Star-Advertiser Top 10 for the first time in more than two decades. Punahou is 3-1 and ranked No. 3, so maybe launching the ball into the atmosphere isn’t such a bad thing after all. Remember, even Coach Tomey grew less conservative over time and eventually employed a young quarterbacks guru with four- and five-wide tendencies.
His name? June Jones.
Here’s a look at this weekend’s matchups.
McKinley (2-1, 1-0 OIA Red East) at No. 1 Kahuku (2-0, 1-0 OIA Red East): The Tigers are back home after triumphant trek to Oregon, earning a 43-22 win over La Salle. They’ll need to get over the jet lag quickly. Denzel Kalahiki-Gasper, who passed for 275 yards and three touchdowns against Kaimuki two weeks ago, will be tested by a Kahuku defense that limited Punahou to 13 points.
Aofaga Wily scored three more touchdowns in a win over Kailua last week, carrying the ball just eight times for 121 yards. He now has 346 rushing yards, averaging 9.6 per carry.
Aiea (2-1, 0-1 OIA Red West) at No. 4 Leilehua (3-0, 1-0 OIA Red West): In the post-Kenan Sadanaga era, the Mules have adapted and thrived. With the former all-state offensive player of the year now playing college baseball (UH-Hilo), they’ve turned to Justin Jenks, who has been efficient with just one interception while completing nearly 61 percent of his throws (34-for-56). That efficiency allows coach Nolan Tokuda to trust his defense, which has delivered with wins over Kamehameha (12-10) and Mililani (17-13).
No. 8 Mililani (3-1, 1-1 OIA Red West) at No. 9 Campbell (4-0, 2-0 OIA Red West): Like Leilehua, Campbell is another team that has embraced low-scoring, defensive-minded games when necessary. With Solomon Laeano anchoring the defensive unit at middle linebacker, the Sabers had given up just 13 points in three games before last week’s 39-34 Cane Knife win at Waipahu.
Ka‘u (0-1, 0-1 BIIF D-II) at No. 10 Konawaena (3-1, 1-0 BIIF D-II): Wildcats running back John Kamoku, arguably the best breakaway threat in the islands, became a route runner with touchdown hauls of 64 and 15 yards in a win over Honokaa.
Waianae (1-3, 0-2 OIA Red West) at Waipahu (1-3, 1-1 OIA Red West): It’s a throwback showdown with Waipahu back in Division I. Two mobile quarterbacks, Waianae’s Kekoa Kaluhiokalani and Waipahu’s Kaimi Paredes, square off. The Seariders are coming off a 17-2 loss at Kapolei, a team that Waipahu edged two weeks ago.
Anuenue (1-3, 1-2 OIA White) at Kaiser (2-2, 2-1 OIA White): Kalani did what three previous opponents did not. The Falcons limited Anuenue fullback Kainalu Kaleo to less than 100 yards, but Anuenue Tui (138 yards) and Malaeloa Liua (137) benefitted. The strategy of shutting down the interior worked in Kalani’s win, and coach Rich Miano may have his Kaiser squad borrow that game plan. He’s got a sack-happy defense (20 sacks this season) that will need discipline, particularly from linebacker Fitou Fisiiahi, who has 10 sacks in two games since returning from injury.
Kaiser ironman Kai Gonda is the first player in the state to score touchdowns four different ways: by reception, by rushing attempt, punt return and kick return.
Pearl City (0-4, 0-3 OIA White) at Roosevelt (0-2, 0-2 OIA White): The defending White Conference champion Chargers are improving under first-year coach David Hallums, but they’ll need a strong run to qualify for the playoffs. Roosevelt scored its first touchdown in last week’s loss to Kaiser.
Keaau (0-3, 0-1 BIIF D-I) at Hilo (1-1, 0-0 BIIF D-I): Keha Wong was on fire in a 31-27 loss to Waiakea, passing for 312 yards (19-for-30) and four touchdowns. That’s good news for the Cougars and a big challenge for the Vikings, who lost to Konawaena — another pass-first attack — 48-12 two weeks ago.
Lahainaluna (3-0, 2-0 MIL) at Baldwin (1-1, 1-0 MIL): It’s opportunity time for the Lunas, who have shut out their last two foes (King Kekaulike, Kamehameha-Maui). Baldwin bounced back from a lopsided loss to Saint Louis with a 25-5 win over Maui despite the absence of quarterback Keelan Ewaliko (rib) and linebacker Jordan Hoiem (flu). KS-Maui transfer Ryan Graham was well-prepared (19-for-26, 151 yards), which begs this question: Will the Bears put Ewaliko’s superior speed to work at other positions when he returns?
Kauai (4-0, 1-0 KIF) vs. Kapaa (2-0, 0-0 KIF): Kauai’s Waika Alapai, a 6-foot-2, 235-pound senior, tore off a 75-yard run last week before leaving with an injury, and running back Reggie McFadden is also injured. Wide receiver Kanoa Iwasaki is out with a broken collarbone. The Warriors haven’t played since a 27-13 at Kamehameha-Maui three weeks ago. Kauai has been busy with a full slate of nonconference wins (Waialua, King Kekaulike, Pac-Five) and a KIF-opening 24-7 win over Waimea. If Alapai suits up, it’ll be his first time against Kapaa, the school he attended before transferring in the offseason.
Moanalua (2-2, 2-0 OIA Red East) vs. No. 2 Farrington (4-0, 2-0 OIA Red East), Ticky Vasconcellos Stadium: Na Menehune have found balance on offense with the emergence of Micah Kaneshiro. The junior has passed for 391 yards and seven touchdowns in conference wins over Kailua and Castle, which supplements the slashing style of running back Ishmil Scott (353 yards, three touchdowns). Moanalua’s defense, led by lineman Scott Pagano (Clemson commit), will be tested by a “Bamboolas” offensive line that has paved the way for Abraham Silva (648 yards, 10 touchdowns) and Tyler Taumua (289, five).
Damien (3-0, 0-0 ILH) vs. No. 3 Punahou (2-1, 1-0 ILH): The Monarchs are off to their best start since 2009, when they defeated three OIA teams before losing their league opener against ‘Iolani. This time, they’re 3-0 with wins over Kalaheo, Kaimuki and Vacaville Christian (Calif.). Syles Choy has been a reliable distributor at quarterback (one interception in 48 attempts) with a good passer rating (148.38) and one of the best yards-per-attempt averages in the state (8.4). Kyle Sato, a 5-10, 170-pound senior, has been steady with 295 yards and four touchdowns on 37 carries.
They’ll need to move the chains and keep Punahou’s prolific offense off the field. Larry Tuileta leads the state in passer rating (179.06) and already has 787 yards and eight touchdown strikes with just one pick. Tuileta opened the season with bombs galore to Kanawai Noa (21 catches, 459 yards, six touchdowns), but is now delivering swing passes to bulldozing running back Ryan Tuiasoa.
No. 5 Saint Louis (1-2, 0-0 ILH) vs. No. 7 ‘Iolani (4-0, 1-0 ILH): The Raiders, in the words of coach Wendell Look, have been “lucky” in comeback wins over Konawaena, Waipahu and Pac-Five. But they also have a history of giving the Crusaders a tough battle. Saint Louis defensive end Kamalei Correa is out to chase ‘Iolani scrambler Reece Foy all night from Foy’s blind side, but Foy has been an escape artist. He has not thrown a pick in 102 attempts.
Saint Louis scored 40 second-half points against national power Bishop Gorman (Nev.) in a loss last week, but sophomore quarterback Ryder Kuhns (246 yards) established a direct link with Kainoa Abreu, who caught all three of Kuhns’ touchdown tosses. Whether Kuhns starts or Kawai Mook-Garcia (leg injury) returns, the Crusaders will exploit any softness up the middle with Adam Noga, who had a career game against Bishop Gorman (201 yards, two touchdowns).
Pac-Five (0-3, 0-1 ILH) vs. No. 6 Kamehameha (2-2, 0-1 ILH): The Warriors would love to revive their offense, but the Wolfpack have a stellar defensive unit with playmakers like Nick Kwon. One key is the health of Wolfpack running back Keoni Tom-Millare, who had 150 yards on 32 carries before getting hurt in a loss to ‘Iolani.
Kailua (0-4, 0-2 OIA Red East) vs. Kaimuki (0-4, 0-2 OIA Red East): The Surfriders have four remaining games to make a turnaround and qualify for the playoffs. Jarrin Young was one of the bright spots in last week’s loss at Kahuku, scoring Kailua’s lone touchdown. The senior running back has not had more than 14 carries in a game so far.
Kalaheo (3-1, 3-0 OIA White) at Radford (3-0, 2-0 OIA White): The Rams are on fire, but coming home from a tough win in Oregon (over Crescent Valley) could be a challenge. Cody Lui-Yuen had his first rough outing, but is still among the state’s top quarterbacks (136.22 passer rating). Kalaheo relied on the legs of Cristian Johnson early on, but went to Willie Lynch (200 yards, four touchdowns) in a win over Waialua last week.
Kalani (2-1, 2-0 OIA White) at Nanakuli (2-1, 2-1 OIA White): The Falcons are in beast mode, as the kids say, since a road loss to D-II power Kapaa. Wins over Waialua and Anuenue by margins of 19 and 22 points have been about defense and the ground game. Offensive coordinator Ron Lee called a 2-1 ratio of running and passing plays, but Noah Brum made his opportunities count (7-for-13, 262 yards, two touchdowns).
The Golden Hawks withstood Pearl City’s 44 pass attempts last week to pull out a 34-28 win. Running back Khade Paris (64 yards, three touchdowns) and quarterback Chazz Troutman (117 total yards) were big keys.
Kamehameha-Hawaii (4-0, 1-0 BIIF D-II) at Honokaa (1-2, 0-1 BIIF D-II): The movement at KS-Hawaii has opened the door to transfers like Faaolaina Teofilo, rugby player who arrived from Waiakea without any varsity football experience. Last week’s forfeit win over Kohala may have been a blessing in disguise, but Teofilo’s 189-yard, two-touchdown performance two weeks ago against Keaau is still a highlight. Honokaa struggled in a loss at Konawaena, but is always tough at home.
Waiakea (2-2, 1-0 BIIF D-I) at Kealakehe (2-1, 0-0 BIIF D-I): The return of elite running back Kean Wong recently has given the Warriors a lift, but he’s at quarterback now. Devin Preston ran wild against Keaau with 224 yards and four touchdowns. Waiakea has a history with Kealakehe, a nemesis of sorts. The Waveriders got a boost from Jordan Cristobal in a win over El Capitan (Calif.). He amassed 315 total yards, including 99 on the ground for two touchdowns.
Kohala (0-1, 0-1 BIIF) at Hawaii Prep (1-2, 1-0 BIIF): The Cowboys are back on the field after forfeiting to KS-Hawaii a week ago.
“I set a (minimum) number of 22 players, and we have 23 now,” athletic director Laurie Koustik said, of the 23, who have all met the requirement of 10 practices.
Kohala has an enrollment of just 260 students. The local Pop Warner team shut down last year, but has been revived this fall, which is good news for the future of Cowboys football.
King Kekaulike (0-2, 0-1 MIL) at Kamehameha-Maui (0-3, 0-2 MIL): The battle of Upcountry Maui squads will be intriguing. The Warriors, led by former St. Anthony coach Kevin O’Brien, are coming off a loss to Lahainaluna. Na Alii had a bye last week.
Paul Honda, Star-Advertiser