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Waianae won't be quite so grounded

By Jerry Campany

LAST UPDATED: 4:43 p.m. HST, Aug 6, 2013

Those who watch the Weather Channel looking for signs of the apocalypse can feel free to put down the remote.

A surer sign of the End of Days occurred when Waianae entered the summer pass league for the first time.

The Seariders, who open the season at No. 9 in the Star-Advertiser's football poll, have always been the type of program to ground it out and play defense.

This year might be different.

"It's been an eye-opener for us," Waianae coach Daniel Matsumoto said. "That kind of bothers me, you know, we spent a lot of time preparing for the pass league. But it was fun to watch the kids and they did pretty well."

Spending so much time on the pass was not a bad idea for a team that features a three-year starter at quarterback for the first time since Michael Beazley took the Seariders to Oahu Prep Bowls in 1978 and 1980, with a district championship in 1979.

Beazley threw for more than 100 yards in a game twice in his three years, while current starter Kekoa Kaluhiokalani has already done it seven times. Even Waianae can be dragged kicking and screaming into the new world, but don't expect more spread than their traditional wing-T. After all, it's still Waianae, and when the Seariders put the pads on for the first time on Tuesday — Monday's practice was canceled when school closed because of the threat of a tropical storm — it will be about doing what they do best: hitting people in the mouth.

"I am pretty sure we are going to be more well-rounded," Matsumoto said. "But we will stick with what we do well. It's Waianae."

Kaluhiokalani can throw more than a football. He led Waianae to an OIA White baseball championship as a pitcher last year and spent his summer traveling to the continent to show off his skills. That forced him to miss the pass league, but backup Stanley Keama-Jacobe showed off a strong arm and promises to be a capable replacement if needed. Pookela Noa-Nakamoto and Johnothan Napierala-Rose figure to be the top targets in the passing game.

Kaluhiokalani should stay clean with a powerful offensive line back in the fold, led by senior Stansen Fonoti (6-3, 285), who can play anywhere on the line. Junior Losi Mauga (6-2, 280) joins a unit that pushed Kahuku around last season and turned a trying year — in which the Seariders played every game on the road — into a 5-5 surprise.

Chaz Bollig returns to tote the load for the Seariders at running back, with fullback Jemery Willes leading the way. Emil Muraoka will also carry the ball a lot in Waianae's wing-T.

Matsumoto isn't worried about moving the ball, but stopping opponents from doing it has him a little concerned. He lost defensive tackle Kennedy Tulimasealii to graduation, and nobody can be expected to replace the current University of Hawaii defensive tackle.

Sheaven Ferreira-Delima (6-1, 275) returns at one end, and Justice Jardine (6-2, 180) arrives from Saint Louis School to man the other side. Senio Samisoni (6-1, 290) is the brightest talent in the middle, but he might be joined by Fonoti and Mauga if the current defensive tackles can't get a good push.

Don't even ask about linebackers; it's too early. Matsumoto has Jonathan Lasconia manning the middle right now, but the spots flanking him are wide open. The question marks with that unit mean that the defensive backs, led by Koali Opunui and Joshua Searle, will be asked to stuff the run as much as defend the pass.

"Defensively, that's what I am worried about," Matsumoto said. "Offensively, we should be able to move the ball a lot better than last year. (Tulimasealii) made a big difference for us last year. Now, with the no-name defense, everybody is going to have to step it up."

Stanton Spencer holds down the kicking duties and is competing to double up as the punter. He showed off his athleticism with a fine catch on a long pass in traffic during last Wednesday's practice.

The Seariders get to see how their defense looks beginning with scrimmages at Nanakuli on Thursday and ‘Iolani on Saturday.

Waianae boasted of a roster of 62 players when camp opened, down a bit from previous years by design. Matsumoto began whittling his roster early in the spring, ensuring that when they take their field for homecoming against Kapolei to finish the regular season, nobody is there just taking up space.

"We don't want to keep people just to keep them; they have to earn their spot," said Matsumoto, who is 79-63 since taking over in 2000. "Of all of the years, we pushed them most physically this summer."

Even though Kaluhiokalani was away, he says he spent the summer working on football as much as baseball and looked as good as ever early in camp. Whether the senior airs it out or spends entire games handing off to a running back, having a signal-caller in his third year running the system is Waianae's greatest advantage. It is a far cry from his sophomore season, when Waianae opened the campaign with four straight losses before everything clicked and the Seariders won four of their next five.

"It's a lot easier since my sophomore year," Kaluhiokalani said. "It was not really scary, more nervous because of the faster pace. My teammates made me feel very comfortable. I used to doubt myself sometimes, but my team always picked me up. It's just very fun to play with these guys, I love every one of my guys."

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