Can-do attitude: Keaau football starts with hard work, perseverance, builds from there

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Kaohu Kaluna, a sophomore, is set to start at quarterback for Keaau,

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Jamin Kua-Cantan is a key wide receiver in Keaau's Air Raid concepts.

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Keaau's football team takes on the blocking sled Wednesday at practice.

As a Keaau physical education teacher, Ian Van Cleave is around his football players all the time and has a good sense of their potential, which explains the team’s vision: E ho’oikaiika e holomua, to work hard or strive for progress and success.

“Every day we encourage and challenge our student-athletes to put in high effort to achieve what they want,” he said. “That is an attitude we hope to cultivate within them to give them a better future. Every challenge is an opportunity for growth.”


That said, he’s got a roster of 35 to 40, still working with players being medically cleared, and about a dozen who played for the Cougars in 2019. But like most BIIF teams, the Cougars are green, nearly half who’ve never played football before.

“There’s lots of potential,” Van Cleave said. “I like the hard work, perseverance, and positive attitudes.”

The Cougars open their season against Waiakea on Saturday at Ken Yamase Memorial Stadium.

“I have no idea what Waiakea looks like, so my only expectations are of ourselves, and that is to play smart, clean, and high-effort football, with a team mindset for a victory,” Van Cleave said.

The Cougars will run some Air Raid concepts with a strong running game. The system is a four-receiver set out of a shotgun formation. It’s a no-huddle attack played at a high tempo, sort of like run and gun for basketball.

Kaohu Kaluna, a sophomore will start at quarterback and be protected by offensive linemen Fa’apo Oti, Izayah Hatori-Awong, Tevita Lavemai and Rayver Galvez.

“Kaohu has excellent arm talent, speed, and football IQ,” Van Cleave said. “Our O-line is solid, hard working and always ready to go and embraces the importance and value of OL.”

If you can pass block and hold off the rush to allow the QB to diagnose the defense, someone should always be open. If not, it’s an easy QB sack and big second-and-long holes to dig out of.

Jamin Kua-Cantan will be a key receiver, and Masen Silva will be the lead running back.

“Masen is a multi-talented athlete with good experience and instincts and has filled in for us at RB,” Van Cleave said.

The Cougars will run a base 4-3 defensive front, led by Oti, Lavemai and Shaydin Meek-Canon-Ching on the line.

Oti and Lavemai will play on both sides of the ball, and the Cougars see something special in Meek-Canon-Ching, a 5-foot-10, 200-pound sophomore.

“Shaydin has the potential to be a very special athlete,” Van Cleave said.

Jasen Silva, Keiki Goo and Cody Miller will start at linebacker. They’re all seniors and provide the leadership.

Baily Gapusan will head the secondary. The Cougars coach likes his enthusiasm.

“The kid is going to be governor one day,” Van Cleave said. “For now, he leads our secondary with the positive, hard-working attitude he always has.”

Van Cleave jokes that everyone is a kicker at Keaau.

“At Keaau, everyone thinks they can kick, but none better than Izayah Hatori-Awong,” he said.

Almost always, football is decided by the team with the least amount of turnovers. But in the COVID-19 era, it’ll also come down to the basics, blocking and tackling.

“Inexperience is just one enormous part of it,” Van Cleave said. “The other aspect is rust. Our experienced players are rusty, and I speak for all the scrimmages, preseason games, and practices I’ve seen so far when I say varsity football around the league has looked a little like JV.”

But the good news is his Cougars have heard his message.

“Every day a new voice is stepping up with a message of encouragement and hard work,” he said. “Fa’apo Oti has been leading by example at another level for us.”


Saturday at Waiakea, noon

Oct. 30 at Konawaena, 1 p.m.

Nov. 5 Kealakehe, 6 p.m.

Nov. 19 Hilo, 6 p.m.


4-6 BIIF Division I

Head coach

Ian Van Cleave (second season)



“Every day a new voice is stepping up with a message of encouragement and hard work.”

– Van Cleave

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