Red Raiders return key players, build on a solid foundation
BRUCE ASATO / BASATO@STARADVERTISER.COM
Kahuku’s Wesley Maiava ran between Kamehameha defenders Kupono Blake (17) and Ezra Evaimalo (18) for a first down in a scrimmage on Thursday.
The shifting winds of football talent are felt everywhere.
Even at Kahuku.
It wasn’t long ago when chatter about the possible departure of super-talented freshman quarterback Sol-Jay Maiava began to spread. Maiava, with a scholarship offer from Michigan in hand before his first season as a Red Raider, was a key part of Kahuku’s title run in the OIA.
Then came more success in the state tourney before an eventual loss to Saint Louis in the Open Division title tilt. From start to finish, Maiava was still relatively green, learning as quickly as he could. A ninth grader with all the potential in the world, but still a ninth grader. The pummeling smashmouth attack that powered Kahuku to a state title in 2015 wasn’t quite enough in ’16. Particularly against a Saint Louis team with the nation’s top quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, operating in a classic four-wide passing scheme.
BRUCE ASATO / BASATO@STARADVERTISER.COM
Kahuku QB Sol-Jay Maiava eyed the end zone on a keeper in a scrimmage against Kamehameha on Thursday.
Maiava was wholly impressive last Thursday night in a scrimmage at Kamehameha. Former head coach Vavae Tata left after two seasons, replaced by Makoa Freitas. The difference on the offensive side meant a lot of pistol formations with offset-I and four-wide looks. The I- and double-tight sets of recent years are still in the playbook, but not prominently featured.
“We had no turnovers. We played well together. Penalties were limited, so we’re OK. We have a long ways to go, but we’re taking steps forward,” Freitas said after the scrimmage.
“They’re giving me a little more freedom,” Maiava said. “We’re still trying to work it out, balance the offense. They pretty much gave the reins to the offense. Allow me to be the leader out there.”
The new quarterback coach is Brian Ah Yat, a former high school and college slinger. Maiava and the offense are in sync, flowing with equal parts freedom and aerial confidence. The freedom, by the way, also means Maiava has every opportunity to succeed — and fail.
“We’re going to slowly add more. We’ll ask more of him. We’re going to try taking our shots to keep the defense honest,” Freitas said.
Those deep shots, with help from a steady offensive line and a fleet of speedy receivers, already has given Kahuku a different look.
“Just give them a chance, that’s what (Ah Yat) tells me. Kamehameha’s safeties weren’t flowing over fast enough, so he told me to take advantage of that,” Maiava said. “Props to my offensive line.”
Freitas and his staff seem to be permitting a Kahuku passer the kind of real breathing room that hasn’t been seen since Inoke Funaki was rifling deep passes with Siuaki Livai as head coach.
“We want to be able to do both. We want to be able to pass if we have to and want to be able to set up the pass with the run,” Freitas said. “We want him to able to grow, to call audibles. Even if we can run the ball, we want to be sure he has the best coaching available. We’re happy Brian’s with us. We value his input.”
Former JV standout Wes Maiava, who transferred to a Utah school last year, is making the most of his early opportunities since returning to Kahuku. He showed the kind of toughness inside and breakaway speed that could fill the void left by last year’s senior rushers, Elvis Vakapuna and Harmon Brown. He hauled in a 65-yard touchdown pass from his cousin, Sol-Jay Maiava, on a deep post route.
Despite the departures, there are still 12 returning starters from last year’s 11-2 team, including linebacker Miki Ah You, defensive end Samson Reed and linebacker/punter Sekope Latu. Enokk Vimahi and Cire Loo return to bolster the offensive front, while the defense has seasoned contributors in Cedric Iafeta, Samson Kapule-Siilata and Siaosi Lauhingoa on the line, Toalei Lefau at LB and Kaonohi Kaniho in the secondary.
The Red Raiders are still rock solid. Low key. Focused. Diligent.
“I’m glad I didn’t leave,” Sol-Jay Maiava said.
KAHUKU RED RAIDERS
>> Aug. 11: Leilehua, 7:30 p.m.
>> Aug. 18: at Waianae, 7:30 p.m.
>> Aug. 25: Moanalua, 7:30 p.m.
>> Sept. 1: at Aiea, 7:30 p.m.
>> Sept. 9: Bingham (Utah)*, 4:30 p.m.
>> Sept. 16: Kaiser, 6:30 p.m.
>> Sept. 23: Radford, 6:30 p.m.
>> Sept. 29: at Campbell, 7:30 p.m.
* at Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas
>> Head coach: Makoa Freitas, first season, 0-0
>> Last year: 11-2 (7-0 OIA Blue); beat Leilehua 63-0 in OIA D-I quarterfinals, beat Waianae 38-0 in OIA D-I semifinals, beat Farrington 44-8 in OIA D-I championship game, beat Kapolei 54-7 in state Open Division semifinals; lost 30-14 to Saint Louis in state Open Division championship game
>> Key offensive returnees: Sol-Jay Maiava, QB; Enokk Vimahi, OL; Cire Loo, OL; Sekope Latu, TE.
>> Key defensive returnees: Siaosi Lauhingoa, DL; Samson Reed, DL; Cedric Iafeta, DL; Samson Kapule-Siilata, DL; Miki Ah You, LB; Toalei Lefau, LB/FB; Kaonohi Kaniho, DB.
>> Red Raiders with Division I FBS college offers: Samson Reed, DE; Sedric Iafeta, DE/TE; Siaosi Lauhingoa, OL/DL; Sekope Latu P/DL; Izaya Vimahi, OL; Miki Ah You, LB; Nalu Emerson, LB/S; Enokk Vimahi, OL/DL; Kaonohi Kaniho, DB; JL Lavea, LB; Sol-Jay Maiava QB.
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