All-State quarterback commits to UH
By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stephen Tsai
The state's top high school quarterback yesterday accepted a football scholarship from the University of Hawai'i.
"I'm really excited about it," said Kiran Kepo'o of Iolani School. "It's a great opportunity for me."
UH also received a verbal commitment from Afa Bridenstine, a Kahuku High defensive back, yesterday. Bridenstine is a school-record 10th Kahuku player to secure a Division I football scholarship this year.
Kepo'o, who is 6 feet 2 and 210 pounds, is a pitcher in baseball and center in basketball.
But the left-handed Kepo'o excelled in football. As a senior in 2005, he completed 165 of 289 passes for 2,586 yards and 31 touchdowns. He was intercepted 11 times.
He was selected to The Advertiser's 2005 All-State first team.
Most important, UH and Iolani run a similar four-wide passing offense.
Raider quarterback coach Joel Lane was an All-State quarterback at Saint Louis School, which enjoyed long-term success with the four-wide offense. Ron Lee, who was Lane's offensive coordinator at Saint Louis, now coaches the UH receivers.
Kepo'o said he has run this offense since the eighth grade.
"The pass routes and screens are the same," Kepo'o said. "We even run the shotgun. That allows the quarterback to have a better view of the offense."
Kepo'o, who attended almost all of the Warriors' home games in 2005, said he often would try to imagine himself in the UH quarterback's cleats.
"I would go through my reads while the (UH) quarterback was going through his reads," Kepo'o said. "Sometimes I would think, 'That's probably what I would do if I was the (UH) quarterback.' "
Kepo'o credited much of his success to Lane.
"He really helped me," Kepo'o said. "I was really grateful to have him by my side. He has the intelligence. He has the knowledge. He passed it on to me. He showed me what he knew."
Because of Kepo'o's deep knowledge of the four-wide offense, he often is compared to former UH quarterback Tim Chang. The Saint Louis graduate went on to become the NCAA's career leader in passing yards.
"The comparison is they're similar in terms of knowledge and being in the system," Iolani head coach Wendell Look said. "Obviously, Kiran is a little bigger. I think personality- and demeanor-wise, they're very similar. Kiran is a soft-spoken guy. Timmy is the same way. It's a good thing to be compared to Timmy Chang. There's no one better in Hawai'i football history."
Look said Kepo'o can succeed in any offense.
"The kid can make all of the throws," Look said. "He's a physical specimen. UH stole one. They've got a good one."
Kepo'o has managed to balance school and sports. He earned a 3.6 grade-point average for the fall quarter. His cumulative GPA is 3.1, and he already has received an NCAA-qualifying SAT score.
With strong interests in math and science, Kepo'o aspires for a career in the medical field.
Kepo'o visited UH two weeks ago, and received an offer last week. After a meeting with his parents, Look and a school counselor yesterday, Kepo'o said, "I knew UH was the right choice."
"It's a great deal," said his father, Ken Kepo'o. "He gets to stay home. We're happy we can see him play."
Kiran Kepo'o received his unique name from an aunt.
"Apparently she knew someone who had that name," said his mother, Michele Kepo'o. "She asked me what I thought about it, and I said, 'That's a nice name.' "
Michele said she had not named her son "until he left the hospital." He did not have a legal first name for "more than a week."
Now, it is hoped, Kepo'o will make a name for himself with the Warriors.
Bridenstine is the latest in Kahuku's long line of hard-hitting safeties. Keala Santiago, who coaches the Red Raider defensive backs, said Bridenstine has some of the same skills as former All-State safeties Leonard Peters, Aaron Francisco and Steve Laulu. Peters is UH's starting free safety.
Santiago said Bridenstine is "built like Leonard, and he's a little smaller than Aaron Francisco. He has the same speed as Aaron, but he's not as fast as Leonard."
Bridenstine, who is 6-1 and 190 pounds, can run 40 yards in 4.5 seconds.
He was named to The Advertiser's All-State honorable mention for 2005.
Bridenstine competes in track, and is a member of the 19-and-younger state champion North Shore Club in rugby.
"He is a good player and a good student," Kahuku coach Siuaki Livai said.
Mele Haiola said her son will study computer science and art at UH.
"I'm very thankful for the opportunity," Bridenstine said. "I really like the program."
GLANVILLE SAYS CHANGE COMING FOR DEFENSE
UH defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville said several defensive changes will be made for the start of spring practice.
Glanville said Brad Kalilimoku, who started all 12 games at inside linebacker last season, will move to strong safety. Glanville said Kalilimoku also will compete at outside linebacker.
In an effort to bulk up the defensive front of the 3-4 scheme, nose tackles Renolds Fruean and Keala Watson will work out as defensive ends.
Reach Stephen Tsai at email@example.com.