In this edition of What Have We Learned (Sunday, Aug. 2), I’ll start it up and hopefully our other footballholics on staff and otherwise not on staff can chime in. I saw parts of two scrimmages and a full one this week. Together we can come to some agreement or, better yet, complete disagreement, about what we’ve learned in Week 1.
1. Coaches don’t like early-season prognostications.
This season, as one of our editors points out, we didn’t have coaches participate in the Preseason Top 10 voting. Why not? Normally, hardly any of them vote this early anyway. Who can blame them? No pads until this week. Same with scrimmages. All we have to go on when the ballots go out is what we saw last year and what we anticipate this season via returnees, transfers, coaching changes, etc.
And yet, fans go bonkers for early preseason info. Doesn’t mean coaches truly hate this stuff. They just don’t want to vote based on very little information, i.e. head-to-head competition (no pun intended). To the coaches’ credit, though, they’ve been helpful as always with us in getting info and names for preseason previews. Beyond the call, really.
2. I used to hate scrimmage scores.
That’s right. The notion of keeping score at a scrimmage seemed impractical to me. Coaches are getting live-action reps for their second- and third-string guys. They’re working on the bottom of half of the depth chart more than the top half.
And yet, seeing a clock tick down with a live score at Mililani scrimmages on Thursday (against Leilehua) and Friday (against Kahuku) was very cool. I’m not at the point where I want to keep individual statistics for scrimmage action, but I’m a long ways from the years when the thought of covering a scrimmage made no sense.
In this era, it makes total sense. Sure coaches just want to see which of their players actually steps up in live action. So do fans. And media. But probably the best way to approach it for me is strictly video. Without rosters, it’s almost impossible to I.D. players. So the video highlights will go up as time permits. I’m kind of surprised the first-quarter highlights of the Mililani-Kahuku scrimmage already hit 2,000 views by this morning, roughly 36 hours later.
3. Punahou knows the forward pass.
Wayne Taulapapa, their superb RB, hardly played. They rotated their three QBs. And all three were outstanding. It’s not a knock on any defense. Farrington brought a solid unit and made plays. But early in preseason, Punahou’s offense is already clicking. We all know about the great Ephraim Tuliloa — in many other seasons, he would be the best, period. But junior Nick Kapule and sophomore Stephen Barber were solid, too. I’m looking forward to editing that scrimmage video. Kapule’s pump fake (bubble screen) and smooth delivery deep for a long TD pass was picture perfect. Barber ran for a 77-yard TD. I don’t remember seeing that kind of QB speed from a backup sophomore in some time.
4. Smashmouth has its place.
And always will. Farrington had some effective drives against the Buffanblu defense using its power sets. Same with Kahuku against Mililani’s fast, but relatively smaller defense. No doubt both defenses ushered in reserves at the point, but scores in scrimmages and even preseason games don’t always reflect the value of an offensive ground-and-pound component. When you really need a first down while keeping the clock moving, nothing really replaces the ability to get 4 yards any time you run the ball.
5. Still longing.
Didn’t get to see Kamehameha yet. The things that Fatu Sua-Godinet can do throwing and catching the pigskin need to be videotaped, stored and studied. I regret that I’ve missed both of Kamehameha’s scrimmages, not just for Sua-Godinet, but for WR Kumoku Noa — who hauled in a 49-yard TD last night in the scrimmage at Mililani — and all the soon-to-be standouts on both sides of the ball. But especially the defense. Kamehameha has played some solid defense in the past few years, and that unit with its eight returning starters will face big challenges in the ILH. They haven’t forgotten the ups and downs, certainly, of that lethal gauntlet of the ILH. Seeing what that defense can do right now would be a treat.
6. Leilehua’s latest hybrid.
What little I saw on Thursday (the LEI-MIL scrimmage started an hour earlier than we expected) didn’t really show much of the four-wide, empty set look that Coach Nolan Tokuda and his staff have begun to work on. It’s a work in progress, of course, and it’s just a small part of their whole package. The Mules looked fairly good in their more conventional four-wide, one-RB sets, and also in their five-wide sets. They get another nice challenge next weekend with Punahou. The Buffanblu are well aware of what the mighty Mules are testing out, it seems. Coach Kale Ane has kept his eyes wide open, though he tells me he isn’t keeping tally of things. Right…
7. Kapolei’s good problem.
OK, so it took me hours before I figured out via a Facebook photo that No. 12 for Kapolei is former Saint Louis middle schooler Taulia Tagovailoa. He was very sharp, very efficient, no wasted energy or thinking on the field. Just good delivery and Kapolei TDs. Same with Ezra Savea, the Campbell transfer who looks very good in Hurricane teal.
The ‘Canes looked mighty solid offensively, throwing the ball in a fashion that looked like a mirror image at times of their opponent, Saint Louis. So Taulia, the younger brother of Saint Louis starting QB Tua Tagovailoa, has officially made the move and has begun his high school career as a Hurricane — no surprise since his father, longtime Ewa Beach Sabers (age-group football program) coach Galu Tagovailoa is now the Kapolei offensive coordinator.
The world of Big Boyz/Oahu Junior League football may be off the radar for many high school fans, but this much is true: Spend six to nine months per year coaching football to talented, raw kids and do it year after year, and there’s a pretty good chance that not only do players develop exponentially, but some (or many) coaches develop at an accelerated pace, too.
What Galu Tagovailoa has installed at Kapolei, where the spread option under Michael Carter was once king, with two highly capable QBs, is a great sign of things to come for ‘Cane fans. The program has always been about athletic QBs who can run, not necessarily about going all-in on the passing game. I doubt head coach Darren Hernandez will go to that extreme, not with a bulldozing offensive line led by highly-recruited Toleafoa Sean Auwae. But the threat of Savea and Tagovailoa as passers adds an entirely new dimension at a level we haven’t really seen in some time at Kapolei.
Pupule note: Hurricane hot dog: * * * (out of 4). Good deal for $2.