The nuts and bolts: Under first-year coach, Kamehameha stressing fundamentals in return

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald A Kamehameha football player runs with the ball Thursday during a drill.

  • KELSEY WALLING/Tribune-Herald Kealoha Wengler takes the helm of a Kamehameha team that has a roster of 50, but the bulk of the players are inexperienced.

It’s back to teaching the basics — blocking and tackling — for a lot of BIIF teams, including Kamehameha, which has a roster of 50 but most with little or no football experience.

“It’s my first year as coach,” said Kealoha Wengler, a school counselor. “I’ve seen how they worked during the offseason, but I’ll know more about the team after the Kealakehe game (today).

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“We’re really young this year, only a handful with experience, mostly comprised of sophomores and juniors. Many are two-way players. We’ve got a whole bunch of green players. We’re spending the majority of our time teaching fundamentals.”

One senior captain leading the way is cornerback Dodge Turner, who’s proven himself to be a workout Warrior.

“He’s been playing so many years. He doesn’t do a lot of talking. He’s a man of action,” Wengler said. “He definitely puts in his time. He’s in the weight room at 5 a.m. before school starts. He’s a worker.”

The Warriors will rely on their senior captains to set the tone. Another one is Spencer Yoshizumi, who’ll be a two-way starter at slotback and linebacker.

Like Turner, he’s got football experience, and he’s an inspirational guy.

“He’s really humble,” Wengler said. “If the team gets in a rut, he’s good at bringing everybody up, good at inspiring everybody.”

Another senior two-way captain is Tyce Pacheco, who’s 6 feet 1 and 225 pounds. He’ll start at center and defensive end.

“I love his humility,” Wengler said. “He’s always helping his fellow players on the line. He’s good at calling out the blocking schemes.”

Robert Kahai is another senior caption, who’ll play in the secondary. He’s been described as having a good nose for the ball.

For a change, one of the top linebackers is not a senior but a junior in Blaze Figueroa, who’s the leader of the pack. He’s been playing ball since Pop Warner.

“He brings toughness to the defense,” Wengler said. “He’s the voice and commander out there. He screws up our offense at practice. He’s a good leader for us.”

One drawback of inexperience is a smaller playbook. To simplify the offense, the Warrior will start running the ball more and hopefully become more balanced as the reps and comfortability grows.

Michael Perry, a junior, saw limited time at quarterback in 2019 as a freshman. He’ll start out at running back.

For those who have a good memory, Perry showed escapability as a scrambling QB in 2019. He’s got a knack for hiding behind his linemen and scooting through holes.

Jadin Chaves, also a junior, will get the nod at QB, though Perry could draw reps there as well.

“Jadin is a leader out there,” Wengler said. “He has a really good arm. He’s humble, very athletic, can scramble and throw. He has a good understanding of different defenses.”

Wengler is no meteorologist but understands the most elementary fact about Hilo: It rains, which means it’s hard to catch a slippery football.

If you can properly teaching blocking technique and ball security, there’s at least a good chance at moving the chains. Kamehameha can worry about passing on deep routes and big plays later.

“We’ll run out of the shotgun and under center,” Wengler said. “We’ll run tight ends.”

The Warriors may have a giant diamond in the rough in senior rookie Darius Olloway, who’s 6 feet 4 and 200 pounds. He’s mostly known for basketball, and colleges look for players that height at shooting guard.

He brings to mind 2017 Konawaena graduate Kamakana Ching, a 6-3 hoops player who also played wide receiver and landed a scholarship to Western Oregon, a Division II school.

“Hilo is wet all the time, and catching a football is new to him compared to catching a dry basketball,” Wengler said. “He came out during the summer. He’s got a lot to learn but could be fantastic.”

The other tall tight end is senior Christian Saiki, who’s 6-3 and 172 pounds, so Wengler can envision running a double tight end set, especially in red-zone situations where a jump ball might be the best passing option.

“We can run a twin tight end, 6-3 and 6-4 guys. There’s a lot of potential there.”

On the offense line are Pacheco at center, junior Dylan Hanson and freshman Talaimotu Lau Jr. (6-0, 350), who’s already drawing praise for his power, toughness and quick feet.

“This guy is a rock. He’s a straight-ahead nose guard, too,” Wengler said. “He can pull and move. He’s an anchor. He’s got quick feet but has a lot to learn. He’s someone to watch out for. He’s the nephew of DeForest Buckner (Indianapolis Colts DT). He recently moved from Waianae.”

Another two-way lineman is sophomore Niau Paulos (6-0, 184), who earned the coach’s respect for his hard work in the classroom.

“He’ll go wherever we ask him. He comes in the weight room every day at 5 am. and in his free time, he studies,” Wengler said. “He gets his work done. He’s a positive leader with humility.”

Those are the rocks of the OL but the defensive line will be a revolving door, featuring a lot of those guys.

On the DL are sophomore Diesel Gabriel, a two-way starter and junior Kamauokealoha Beaudet, another Ironman starter.

Figueroa, Yoshizumi, Kanikaio Inciong, another senior captain, juniors Jaden Acob and Ezekiel Gragas, and sophomore Ethan Bowden will get reps at linebacker.

Turner will be the main guy in the secondary accompanied by senior Taylor Eckart, juniors Rycen Pole and Kaolapaolili Masuko, sophomore Damien Saiki and Kahai.

Elijah Dinkel, a junior, will handle the kicking duties. He’s got range from 40 yards.

The thing that stands out most about Kamehameha’s new coach is his mindfulness for others. He understands everyone is in the same boat: Lots of inexperience with a focus on teaching the basics of blocking and tackling.

“We’re simplifying the playbook. I’d rather do a few things well than a whole bunch of things ugly,” he said. “Other teams are struggling, too. We want to give everybody the best possible experience, not just us. We’re all in this together. We want to get in as many games and experience in as possible.”

Schedule

Friday at *Kealakehe, 6 p.m.

Thu., Oct. 21 Ka’u, 5 p.m.

Fri., Oct. 29 Honokaa 5 p.m.

Fri., Nov. 5 Pahoa 5 p.m.

Thu. Nov. 11 *Keaau 5 p.m.

Nov. 20 Kohala 5 p.m.

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Nov. 27 at HPA 2 p.m.

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