Abundance of talent makes OIA Red East football a tossup
By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer
OK, so the Kahuku High School football team had an "off year" in 2002, going 6-3 and losing in the O'ahu Interscholastic Association quarterfinals.
Wes Nakama The Honolulu Advertiser
All-State slotback Ikaika Ho leads an experienced Castle squad out to defend its OIA championship.
Wes Nakama The Honolulu Advertiser
Several other Red Conference-East Division teams may have something to say about that. The teams that finished ahead of Kahuku in the OIA last year (Castle, Kailua, McKinley and Farrington) all come from the East and each returns several key players.
"The league is very balanced," Kailua coach Darren Johnson said. "There's about four or five teams that can win it."
Championship fever still is in full pitch at Castle, where the Knights had a turnout of 57 players 20 more than last year. Among them are returning All-State slotbacks Ikaika Ho and Jared Suzui and All-State linebacker Blaze Soares.
"We have a good corps coming back, there's a lot of excitement going on," Castle coach Nelson Maeda said. "We have a lot of added experience this year."
McKinley returns a three-year starting quarterback in crafty and nimble Abel Werner, plus one of the state's top college prospects in defensive lineman Randy Faletoi. The Tigers displayed their prowess in a 25-12 non-league victory over Iolani on Saturday.
Kailua also scored a victory over an Interscholastic League of Honolulu opponent, beating Punahou 22-7. And Castle raced past Waipahu, 56-11, in its preseason game.
Farrington lost its nonleague game to Baldwin, 3-0, but it should be noted that the Governors were missing many starters due to academic probation. Those players will have an opportunity to return to action in two weeks.
Farrington has one of Hawai'i's best running backs in senior Matt Bell, who has had to play both ways due to the shortage of starters.
2002 overall records W L Castle 10 5
OIA Red East
Farrington 6 7
Kahuku 6 3
Kailua 9 3
Kaimuki 5 4
McKinley 9 5
Roosevelt 3 5
2002 overall records
Castle 10 5
The Red Raiders had won eight of the previous 13 OIA championships, so being knocked out of the playoffs early last year did not sit well with the returning players in the offseason.
"The whole year (since), the feeling they had was not a good feeling," Kahuku coach Siuaki Livai said. "They've been running and lifting, sometimes at 5:30 in the morning."
Although some may have regarded last season as a "rebuilding" year for the Red Raiders, they actually return only six starters on offense and three on defense. And their usually enormous roster has "only" 86 players, down 21 from last year.
"But they've still got the talent," said Johnson, a standout at Kahuku in the early 1980s. "I know a lot of those kids because we go to the same church. They've always got talent out there."
Coach: Nelson Maeda, 7th season (37-28-1, 41-42-3 overall including 1980-81 at Kailua)
Top players: LB Elde Agcaoili (5-7, 175, Sr.); OL/DL Keoni Gomes (5-11, 240, Jr.); SB Ikaika Ho (5-0, 165, Sr.); RB Guy Humalon (6-0, 195, Sr.); QB Bryce Kalauoka'aea (6-1, 167, Soph.); QB/DB Junior Mansanas (5-7, 147, Jr.); OL/DL Mana Sasaki (6-0, 265, Sr.); LB Blaze Soares (6-1, 187, Jr.); SB Jared Suzui (5-8, 172, Sr.); LB Antone Watanabe (5-11, 186, Sr.).
Outlook: The Knights may have been the surprise champion of 2002, but they will sneak up on no one this year. Last season's title was won largely on team speed, and Castle returns many of the key skill players who gave opponents fits with their quickness. Slotbacks Ikaika Ho and Jared Suzui are dangerous open-field runners, especially effective on screen plays and special teams. Mana Sasaki, another key returnee, anchors the line. "He'll play a big role in the trenches," coach Nelson Maeda said. Elde Agcaoili, Blaze Soares and Antone Watanabe give the Knights perhaps the quickest, most experienced linebacking corps in the division. Maeda described the QB duel between Junior Mansanas and Bryce Kalauoka'aea as "fierce." Mansanas, who was a part-time starter last year, also played defensive back but will be limited to offense if he wins the quarterback job. "But no matter who it is," Maeda said, "we'll try to get the ball into Ikaika and Jared's hands."
Coach: Randall Okimoto, 2nd season
Top players: DB Jeffrey Ah-Ching-Noga (5-7, 145, Sr.); QB Eti Antonio (6-0, 200, Jr.); RB Matt Bell (6-0, 180, Sr.); DB Jerome Crisostomo (5-4, 130, Sr.); FS Taeao Fagalele (5-11, 145, Sr.); WR Alvin Faumui (6-1, 155, Sr.); DL Tom Fonoti (6-2, 214, Soph.); DL Josiah Milo (6-1, 182, Sr.); DL Luavalu Sagapolutele (6-0, 185, Soph.); FB Jostin Waialae (5-6, 185, Sr.).
Outlook: Starting quarterback Eti Antonio suffered a bruised knee in a scrimmage against Kamehameha, and Farrington also was missing several other starters in a 3-0 preseason loss to Baldwin because of academic probation. Up to 26 players on probation will miss this week's regular-season opener against Waipahu. But Antonio is expected to return for that game, and the Govs also have All-State running back Matt Bell in the lineup. The smooth, slashing Bell glides through openings in the defense. "He has good vision," coach Randall Okimoto said. Bell is one of only three returning starters in Farrington's West Coast offense, and the entire offensive line is up from the JV. Alvin Faumui returns at receiver and fullback Jostin Waialae complements Bell with strong inside running. The Govs are a bit more experienced on defense, with five starters back. As a whole, Okimoto said the team plans to build on the success of last season, when it reached the state tournament. "The returnees know what it takes, and they want to go further," Okimoto said.
Kahuku Red Raiders
Coach: Siuaki Livai, 8th season (67-17)
Top players: QB Waika Carvalho (6-1, 180, Sr.); DB Afa Garrigan (6-2, 190, Sr.); WR Spencer Hafoka (6-0, 165, Jr.); RB Cy Naki (5-10, 220, Sr.); C Jeremy Perry (6-3, 290, Sr.); QB Bronson Ponciano-Ahue (6-0, 175, Jr.); DB Tori Taulogo (5-10, 167, Sr.); RB Paea Vaimoui (5-11, 220, Sr.); LB Walker Vave (6-2, 198, Sr.).
Outlook: Coach Siuaki Livai said several starting positions still are up for grabs. Two players who should be locks to start are receiver Spencer Hafoka and center Jeremy Perry. Hafoka was a part-time starter at quarterback last season but also displayed outstanding pass-catching and open-field running ability at receiver. Perry is a top college prospect who anchors another big line. Waika Carvalho and Bronson Ponciano-Ahue, two other part-time starters in 2002, are fighting for the quarterback spot again. Cy Naki and Paea Vaimoui are the top candidates at running back. Kahuku returns six starters on offense. Defensively, the Red Raiders return only three starters, but as Livai said, that's where a lot of the talent is. It starts with linebacker Walker Vave, who is being recruited by several Division I schools, including Hawai'i. Defensive backs Afa Garrigan and Tori Taulogo will lead a traditionally strong secondary. "I think we're very solid where we are now compared to last year," Livai said. "My defense told me, 'If we get one touchdown on offense per game, we should be OK.'"
Coach: Darren Johnson, 8th season (50-26)
Top players: OL Jaymes Asosaoletoetu (6-2, 290, Soph.); OL Kea Crowell (6-3, 290, Sr.); RB Bronson Kamaka (5-9, 170, Sr.); OL Ko'o Kamalamalama (6-1, 290, Sr.); DB Michael Kealoha (5-9, 170, Sr.); OL Mike Keohohina (6-2, 280, Jr.); QB Kelroy Kohatsu (5-9, 175, Jr.); OL Kainoa LaCount (6-6, 300, Jr.); DL Kingsley Lei (5-11, 240, Jr.); DB Derek Mailau (5-10, 175, Sr.); LB Keoki McCabe (5-11, 195, Sr.); DL Kalae Meagher (5-11, 230, Sr.); LB Hogan Paleafei (5-10, 205, Jr.); OL JD Puli (6-3, 295, Sr.); OL Ryan Rodrigues (6-2, 245, Jr.); OL George Salakielu (6-2, 280, Jr.); LB Jermaine Se'e (5-11, 200, Sr.); RB Kekoa Sua (5-10, 185, Jr.); DL Sione Tuifua (5-11, 280, Sr.); DL Keoua Whitlock (6-2, 230, Sr.).
Outlook: The Surfriders have three starters back on offense and four on defense. But Kailua rotates eight offensive linemen, and their average height and weight is 6-2 1/2, 284 pounds. In a 22-7 nonleague victory over Punahou, it did not commit a single false start and was flagged for only one penalty a clipping call early in the game. Running back Kekoa Sua and Bronson Kamaka will be the beneficiaries of the blocking. Kelroy Kohatsu will be the quarterback, moving up from the JV. "He's smart, and he can run and throw," coach Darren Johnson said. Defensively, the Surfriders feature an outstanding secondary led by Derek Mailau and Michael Kealoha. Johnson calls junior Hogan Paleafei, a transfer from Pearl City, "one of the best linebackers I've ever coached." Overall, Johnson said this team has been a pleasure to coach. "The kids have worked very hard, and they're a very respectful group," Johnson said.
Coach: Ronald Oyama, 5th season (25-16-1)
Top players: WR/DB Keha Akau (5-7, 145, Jr.); QB/DB Shaye Aso'au (5-7, 170, Jr.); OT Tony Fa'asoa (6-3, 265, Jr.); SB/DB Josiah Kua (5-7, 170, Jr.); WR Tupou Kuliha'apai (6-0, 165, Sr.); SB/WR Dylan Kuratsu (5-9, 165, Sr.); C Herb Lee (5-9, 255, Sr.); SB/OLB Kaeo Neal (5-8, 196, Jr.); FB Semi Qoro (5-9, 228, Jr.); QB/LB Shelden Sarcedo (5-9, 185, Sr.); SB/DB Sherwin Sarcedo (5-6, 135, Soph.).
Outlook: The Bulldogs lost one of the state's best all-around players, Daniel Tautofi, to the University of Hawai'i. But coach Ronald Oyama said this year's team "has a lot of skill and the kind of team speed we haven't had in a while." Kaimuki returns five starters each on offense and defense. Oyama said a lot of the newcomers are juniors from the JV. "We have a good mix of returnees and young guys, it's just a matter of time for them to come together," Oyama said. He added that the jump from the White Division is a welcome one. "The competition will be tough, but we're looking forward to the season," Oyama said. "We want to play the best, and we tell the kids, 'In life, you should always try for the best.' "
Coach: William Moeava, 1st season
Top players: DB Daniel DeSoto (5-11, 185, Sr.); DT Randy Faletoi (6-3, 310, Sr); G Raphael Ieru (6-2, 310, Jr.); C Heneli Iongi (5-10, 250, Sr.); LB Dixson Lauofo (5-11, 215, Sr.); SB Golden Lawrence (5-7, 165, Sr.); SB/LB Quinton Sayers (6-0, 225, Sr.); WR Iakopo Taumua (6-2, 185, Sr.); RB Michael Vasconcellos (5-10, 200, Sr.); QB Abel Werner (5-11, 170, Sr.).
Outlook: The Tigers return most of their skill position players for first-year coach William Moeava, promoted from JV head coach after three seasons. Quarterback Abel Werner (3,026 yards passing and 25 TDs) enters his third season as a starter in the Tigers' pass-oriented offense. Mike Vanconcellos (744 yards, 12 TDs by rushing and 20 receptions for 133 yards) is a threat running or catching. Defensive lineman Randy Faletoi, a starter since he was a freshman, anchors the Tigers' 4-4 defense. He has already been offered a scholarship by USC.
Roosevelt Rough Riders
Coach: Lester Parrilla, 8th season (25-40)
Top players: OLB Josh Danz (5-8, 184, Sr.); LB Brandon Davis (5-9, 177, Jr.); LB Ricky Eusebio (5-6, 184, Sr.); S Kevin Fujii (5-6, 180, Jr.); QB La'akea Moikeha (6-2, 172, Jr.); LB Erik Nariyoshi (5-6, 165, Sr.); WR Alex Saguritan (5-8, 127, Jr.).
Outlook: The Rough Riders return only three starters on offense but have six on defense, where their strength will be. "Our whole philosophy is to choose our defensive guys first," coach Lester Parrilla said. "Our linebackers will hold us together." That group features inside 'backers Ricky Eusebio and Brandon Davis and outside guys Josh Danz and Erik Nariyoshi. Parrilla said two sophomores probably will start at cornerback. "We've got skill guys, but their really young," Parrilla said. Quarterback La'akea Moikeha was a part-time starter last year, but Roosevelt has only eight linemen total.