• Paul Honda-Honolulu Star Advertiser

The great state of football


DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARADVERTISER.COM

Kahuku defensive back Kekaula Kaniho and Saint Louis quarterback Tua Tagovailoa squared off in the state championship game, with Tagovailoa’s Crusaders taking the title away from the Red Raiders.

The 2016 football season in Hawaii was about greatness.

Momentum. Adversity. Craftsmanship. Grace. Leadership. Sacrifice.

Ultimately, the most resilient were also the ones who grasped the effects of the pendulum. The answer to every question on the football field was usually simple: work.

That’s how Tua Tagovailoa of Saint Louis and Kekaula Kaniho of Kahuku earned Star-Advertiser All-State football offensive and defensive player of the year honors. Cal Lee, who guided Saint Louis to its first state title since 2010, was voted coach of the year.

Farrington’s versatile, durable running back, Challen Faamatau, had a superb senior season and finished second in the offensive voting.

Tagovailoa’s younger brother, Taulia, racked up incredible passing statistics as Kapolei reached the state tourney semifinals and finished third in the voting. Punahou quarterback Nick Kapule, Mililani quarterback Dillon Gabriel and Waianae running back Rico Rosario also received votes.

Tua Tagovailoa was a runaway vote-getter as he used his physical and leadership prowess to carry Saint Louis to the open division state championship. The Crusaders’ stunning 30-14 upset win over No. 1 Kahuku was a fitting final chapter in the prep career of the nation’s top-rated quarterback. The numbers certainly back him up, but it was Tagovailoa’s presence and poise that made all the difference for a program that was rejuvenated during the three seasons he started — coinciding with the return of Lee, the state’s winningest coach, and offensive coordinator Ron Lee.

The 2016 season was peppered with staunch opposition to the Crusaders. Tagovailoa, a 6-foot-1, 215-pound southpaw, continuously worked at his craft. His physical skills were unquestioned. His growth into the upper echelon of mastery in the four-wide offense rocketed off the charts. He spent his offseason focused on “pure progression” and all the nuances that gurus like Ron Lee and June Jones had assembled for him — and Taulia — to absorb.

Out of the gate, Tagovailoa was on point: 265 total yards, four touchdowns against Hilo, and 337 total yards, three TDs against ‘Iolani. Then came the monster performance vs. Punahou that towered over even video-game numbers: 31-for-42, 447 passing yards, six passing TDs (distances of 37, 63, 6, 10, 20 and 14 yards), a 2-point conversion by pass, 15 carries for 104 yards and three more TDs. In all, Tagovailoa accounted for 551 yards and nine TDs in a 64-44 win against one of the top defensive units in the state.

It was surreal.

Then things got choppy. Kamehameha, who Tagovailoa later called the best front seven in the state, limited him to “only” 270 total yards, including eight carries for 12 yards, plus two TDs. He was a mortal, after all, with 20-for-35 passing. He exploded six days later against ‘Iolani (537 total yards, five TDs), and then came the pendulum effect of playing in the brutally difficult ILH.

Punahou cornered him in the rematch for minus-8 yards rushing and just 118 passing yards (12-for-26) with no TDs and his first two interceptions of the year. Saint Louis’ first loss set off alarms.

Then came a rematch with Kamehameha. Tagovailoa, alert and patient, slowed down the pace. The Crusaders chewed up clock for the first time, winning 35-3 as Tagovailoa settled in as a chess master. His passing numbers: a modest 138 passing yards, one TD. But his choices as a runner out of the pocket were close to perfect, resulting in 96 yards and a TD on 13 rushes. It was the template for all games to come, a different speed. A field general simply testing his options.

Saint Louis was unbeatable from that point. Challenged, yes, but with Tagovailoa relatively healthy, the offense was now operating on all cylinders, prepared to win any kind of game. He never cracked the 200-yard mark as a passer again, not until the state championship game against Kahuku. But in a very Marcus Mariota way, he was highly efficient as a decision maker.

A third meeting with Punahou brought Saint Louis a back-to-back ILH crown. Tagovailoa rushed for 98 yards, keeping the Buffanblu off balance, and finished with 290 total yards.

He needed only four carries to dismantle Waianae in the state tourney, picking up 67 yards and a TD while passing for 162 yards (13-for-16) and three more TDs.

Kahuku’s vaunted defense shut down every in-state foe for two seasons, but had no antidote for Tagovailoa. The senior passed for 243 yards and a TD (16-for-25), but was mesmerizing with his legs. Despite a torrent of Kahuku pass rushers, Tagovailoa deftly maneuvered out of the Red Raiders’ grasp and gobbled up chunks of yardage down the sideline, and later, through the hash marks for 136 rushing yards on a season-high 18 carries, scoring on a crucial 30-yard run.

It was a marvel.

“The thing that’s overlooked is just his competitive spirit,” Ron Lee said. “He thrives on competition. He really likes it. He doesn’t boast or show it. The (Nike) Elite 11, he didn’t have to go. He had the scholarship to Alabama, but he wanted to compete against the best. … To go to the bowl games, to pick Alabama when they’ve got their quarterback, that doesn’t bother him. He’ll compete. When Tua went to Saint Louis, he had to compete against good QBs who were starters before him. That doesn’t bother him.

“In the games, he looks forward to playing Punahou and Kamehameha. He’s totally confident. That’s the thing that I think people don’t understand. They think he’s a triple threat and all this stuff, but it’s his competitiveness, 7-on-7s, 11-on-11s, he steps up. Look at what he did in the big games. Some guys in the big games, they’re so-so. That’s where the competitor comes out and that’s what Tua is. He’s in a class by himself.”

The common thread between many successful teams and players is the willingness to study. Kaniho, who has a 3.9 grade-point average, has a keen interest in many things, including bio-medical engineering. He wants to build prosthetics one day.

He puts the same cerebral energy into football, studying game video of opponents constantly, as did his teammates with the Kahuku defense.

The results were astounding. He repeated as an All-State cornerback, but also returned five of his six interceptions for touchdowns this season. That ranks No. 2 in the national records.

Kaniho, who has eight scholarship offers and hasn’t yet committed to a college, was one of many defensive standouts. Kapolei defensive end Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa was second in the voting, finishing his senior year with 14 sacks. Kahuku safety Kesi Ah-Hoy was third.

Cal Lee and his staff got their feet on the ground three seasons ago.

“I feel great. It’s been a long season, but it’s so rewarding. I feel happy for my coaching staff, my players, just to see the excitement in their faces,” Lee said. “When you come into any program, you get what you get. I just felt that I was very fortunate to come back, have guys like Tua as a sophomore. I came back at the right time.”

2016 HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER ALL-STATE FOOTBALL

Selected by coaches and media

FIRST TEAM

OFFENSE

POS.NAMESCHOOLHT.WT.YR.

OLVili FisiiahiKahuku5-10265Sr.

OLMichael MinihanSaint Louis6-3280Sr.

OLOnesimus Lutu-ClarkeWaianae6-6310Sr.

OLMorris UnutoaKapaa6-5285Sr.

OLJacob-Drew RussellSaint Louis5-11299Sr.

RECJaymin SaronoKapolei5-10185Sr.

RECRyan RamonesMoanalua5-11150Sr.

RECEthan TakeyamaPunahou5-10168Sr.

RBChallen FaamatauFarrington5-10200Sr.

RBRico RosarioWaianae5-9200Jr.

QBTua TagovailoaSaint Louis6-1212Sr.

UAndrew ValladaresMililani6-0180Sr.

DEFENSE

POS.NAMESCHOOLHT.WT.YR.

DTMyron Tagovailoa-AmosaKapolei6-4270Sr.

DTAliki VimahiKahuku6-4250Sr.

DEMiki SuguturagaPunahou6-5260Sr.

DEChristian MejiaKailua6-4210Sr.

LBNoa PurcellSaint Louis5-10220Jr.

LBSioeli NaupotoKahuku6-1225Sr.

LBDylan ToiloloSaint Louis5-10191Jr.

CBKekaula KanihoKahuku6-0170Sr.

CBStokes Nihipali-BotelhoKahuku5-10150Sr.

SKesi Ah-HoyKahuku6-0203Sr.

SLeonard LeeKapolei5-11185Sr.

UCharles Moku WatsonLeilehua6-2190Sr.

SPECIALISTS

POS.NAMESCHOOLHT.WT.YR.

PKKaleihaila Tolentino-PerryHilo5-8165Sr.

PAdam StackKamehameha6-2170Sr.

RETStokes Nihipali-BotelhoKahuku5-10150Sr.

SECOND TEAM

OFFENSE

POS.NAMESCHOOLHT.WT.YR.

OLDuke ClemensPunahou6-4252So.

OLSione VeikosoKailua6-7290Jr.

OLJulius BuelowDamien6-6275So.

OLKala‘iakea OrtizKamehameha5-10285Sr.

OLLokahi PauoleKamehameha6-4312So.

RECJustin Genovia‘Iolani5-8150Jr.

RECKeala MartinsonPunahou6-2196Sr.

RECWyatt PerezKapolei5-9170Sr.

RBElvis VakapunaKahuku5-8186Sr.

RBHarmon BrownKahuku5-11195Sr.

QBTaulia TagovailoaKapolei6-0190So.

UKaleoaloha PicenoLeilehua5-9165Sr.

DEFENSE

POS.NAMESCHOOLHT.WT.YR.

DTKishaun KiCampbell6-2280Sr.

DTNakoa PauoleKamehameha6-2270Sr.

DEFaatui TuiteleSaint Louis6-4274So.

DEAndrew AlekiKamehameha6-3222Sr.

LBJalen OlomuaMililani6-0210Jr.

LBMiki Ah YouKahuku6-1190So.

LBIsaac Slade-MatautiaSaint Louis6-1225Sr.

CBIsaiah JacksonMoanalua6-0172Sr.

CBJalen SaoleSaint Louis5-11162Sr.

SIsaiah TufagaSaint Louis6-2196Jr.

SCodie SauvaoKahuku6-0191Sr.

UJeremy McGoldrickCastle5-8140Sr.

SPECIALISTS

POS.NAMESCHOOLHT.WT.YR.

PKDamien SantiagoMililani5-8140Jr.

PRiley AsuncionKapolei6-1170Sr.

RETChallen FaamatauFarrington5-10200Sr.

THIRD TEAM

OFFENSE

POS.NAMESCHOOLHT.WT.YR.

OLVaka FaleKahuku6-0340Sr.

OLScott AgasivaMililani6-0300Jr.

OLNoah WilliamsMililani6-0260Jr.

OLPaula FinauBaldwin6-5340Sr.

OLAkoni KapiheKapolei6-1275Sr.

RECRonson YoungSaint Louis5-10170Sr.

RECJaykob CabunocKamehameha5-7160Sr.

RECKawai PhiferLeilehua5-9170Sr.

RBKJ Pascua‘Iolani5-6170Sr.

RBAlfred FailaugaWaipahu5-8160Fr.

QBNick KapulePunahou6-2190Sr.

UAndrew KaufusiKaiser6-1210Sr.

DEFENSE

POS.NAMESCHOOLHT.WT.YR.

DTTainano GauluaFarrington6-2260Sr.

DTHale Motu‘apuakaPunahou6-1270Jr.

DESamson ReedKahuku6-3245Jr.

DEKana‘i MaugaWaianae6-2210Jr.

LBJaylen GonzalesWaianae5-11215Sr.

LBOmar MarekoKapolei6-1225Sr.

LBRyan DominickPunahou6-0205Sr.

CBDustin GapusanMililani5-9165Sr.

CBRick SandrySaint Louis5-5144Sr.

SIosefo Ah Ching-NogaFarrington5-9177Sr.

SPokii Adkins-KupukaaCampbell5-11170Fr.

UWembley MaileiSt. Francis6-2200Jr.

SPECIALISTS

POS.NAMESCHOOLHT.WT.YR.

PKJeff ChanPunahou5-10155Sr.

PSekope LatuKahuku6-1240Jr.

RETJonah SoakaiRadford6-3170Sr.

Offensive Player of the Year: Tua Tagovailoa, Saint Louis H Defensive Player of the Year: Kekaula Kaniho, Kahuku H

Coach of the Year: Cal Lee, Saint Louis

HONORABLE MENTION

OL

Micah Ah Soon-See, Campbell

Josiah Haywood, Kapolei

Eliki Tanuvasa, Saint Louis

Alana Uluave, Punahou

Clayton Foluena, Farrington

Malosi Scanlan, Mililani

Jonah Maga, Waianae

Donte Keli‘iholokai, Kapolei

Cire Loo, Kahuku

Siliva Toelupe, Kahuku

Enokk Vimahi, Kahuku

Eli Unutoa, Kapaa

Arasi Mose, Saint Louis

Jayden Tupuola, Saint Louis

REC

Markus Ramos, Campbell

Kingston Moses-Sanchez, Farr.

Judd Cockett, Punahou

Mosi Afe, Farrington

Isaac Yamashita, Waipahu

Shaun Apiki, Damien

Kamakana Ching, Konawaena

Pua Falemalu, Kahuku

Sekope Latu, Kahuku

RB

Javen Towne, Waianae

Mark Lagazo, Kailua

Kanoa Shannon, Kamehameha

Jalen Olomua, Mililani

Kamaki Gouveia, Baldwin

Dylan Silva, Saint Louis

Steven Lombard, Kahuku

QB

Alakai Yuen, Moanalua

Dillon Gabriel, Mililani

Tai-John Mizutani, ‘Iolani

Bishop Rapoza, Farrington

Sol-Jay Maiava, Kahuku

Marcus Faufata-Pedrina, Damien

Jordan Solomon, Kaimuki

Austin Ewing, Konawaena

Ryan Johnson, Pac-Five

Braden Amorozo, Waipahu

DT

George Lauhingoa, Kahuku

Lafo Seiuli-Sanchez, Waipahu

Feletoa Ailua, Waianae

Micah Atuatasi, Waianae

Supilani Mailei, St. Francis

Shiloh Kaeo, Damien

Dylan Naehu, Kapolei

DE

Foi Sila, Farrington

Braxton Victor, Leilehua

Tyler Soucie, Moanalua

Kapena Texeira, Kapaa

Tevita Otuvaka, St. Francis

Noa Nua, ‘Iolani

Cameron Chang, ‘Iolani

Matthan Hatchie, Waialua

Jeminae Solomua, Waipahu

Pomai Kim, Damien

Jonah Kahahawai-Welch, KS

LB

Brandon Hattori, Waianae

Tema Lindsey, Kahuku

Francis Mailo, Waianae

Freedom Alualu, Farrington

Shawn Borges, Damien

Andrew Kaufusi, Kaiser

Donovan Ugalino, Leilehua

Jeremiah Leaeno, Campbell

Dane Esprecion, Campbell

Logan Williams, Punahou

Toalei Lefau, Kahuku

Dayton Lee, Waialua

Tyrese Tafai, Campbell

Nathan Utu, Kamehameha

Jacob Lealamanua,

Kamehameha

CB

Tanu Tautolo, Farrington

Christian Jay Acorda, Farrington

Tiger Peterson, Kamehameha

Dayton Weber, Waianae

Scott Lam, Damien

Makana LaBoy, ‘Iolani

Kalani Segovia, Kapolei

S

Helam Baldomero, ‘Iolani

Kea Rodrigues, Moanalua

Gage Asing, Aiea

Sam Freeney, Waianae

J.T. White, Damien

Elijah Brame, Waianae

Kobie Russell, Waipahu

Jonah Soakai, Radford

UTL

Donovan Defang, Lahainaluna

Kapena Texeira, Kapaa

Matthan Hatchie, Waialua

Lancen Kuni, Waialua

PK

Jacob Tobias, Saint Louis

Adam Stack, Kamehameha

Stokes Nihipali-Botelho, Kahuku

P

Jeremaiah Tauai, Campbell

Jorell Pontes-Borje, Waianae

Evan Minami, ‘Iolani

RET

Andrew Valladares, Mililani

Jeremy McGoldrick, Castle

Kade Ambrocio, Waianae

Jaykob Cabunoc, Kamehameha

Kekaula Kaniho, Kahuku

Elvis Vakapuna, Kahuku


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