HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL
Recruiters on Hurricane watch
Recruiters arrive in Hawaii, jump into rental cars and often head where the gold is.
That means the state's more prominent, established programs draw instant attention. Kahuku. Kamehameha. Saint Louis. The list goes on and on.
But at Kapolei, which completed its fourth season of varsity football, a few recruiters are finding gems.
The "triplets" of the Oahu Interscholastic Association's second-best offense are being sought by Navy and Air Force. Quarterback Brad Padayao, speedy slotback Jon Santiago and running back Radford Raquedan helped set the tone in the classroom for the Hurricanes this year.
Padayao has a 3.8 grade-point average, while Raquedan has a 3.5. Santiago, arguably the most elusive slotback in the state, has a 4.0.
"They're also the three strongest on our team, pound for pound, constantly in the weight room. For their weight classes, they pretty much have the strength and speed records," said Hurricanes coach Darren Hernandez.
Because Hernandez's offense is a blend of spread option and run-and-shoot, Padayao has a great feel for what both service academies do.
If Padayao winds up at one of the academies, he'll be the second Kapolei quarterback to play Division I football. Kaipo Noa Kaheaku-Enhada is a promising signal-caller at Navy.
"Brad has the versatility to play slot, and Kaipo has the versatility to play receiver, so that could make it work," Hernandez said of the possibility of seeing two Hurricanes on the same team. "When you get a kid who can excel in the one-back spread option, what they saw in film, they see three boys who would fit into their scheme."
Raquedan and Santiago are slightly undersized by the standards of many Division I universities, but might be nice fits at Navy or Air Force.
Navy is coached by former University of Hawaii offensive coordinator Paul Johnson. Former Radford standout and UH quarterback Ken Niumatalolo is the offensive line coach. However, it is Air Force that may have the inside track on the triplets.
"They'll probably all go to the same place. Fisher DeBerry called Brad and talked to him and told him he's very interested in him, that he could be a four-year starter," Hernandez said of the longtime Air Force coach.
Padayao has a strong arm and is still maturing with his ability to read defenses. His scrambling ability, however, is remarkable. He had five runs of more than 50 yards this year.
"I usually have 3 to 5, maybe 8 minutes max on the highlight video. His video was 30 minutes long," said Hernandez, who edits the videos for his players.
In addition to the trio, there are other Hurricanes on the watch list. Cornerback Shannon Arnold, at 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, snagged four interceptions this season.
"On film, he looks really good. He had some lapses where he didn't play as well as he could have, but he has a lot of potential," Hernandez said. "He could've been an outstanding slotback, but we needed him on defense."
Arnold carries a 3.8 GPA.
Linebacker Po'okela Ahmad had a stellar season, capped by defensive player of the game honors for the West squad in the HUB Goodwill Senior Bowl. San Diego State was going to offer him a visit before head coach Tom Craft was fired recently.
Utah State, one of the new members of the Western Athletic Conference, is highly interested in Kapolei defensive tackle Ben Kahalehoe (6-2, 225). Though Kahalehoe is not a qualifier yet, the Aggies love his work ethic on the field.
"Their D-line coach (Tom McMahon) says Ben has a great motor and a great first step," Hernandez said. Because Kahalehoe is not likely to qualify, Utah State is willing to accept Kahalehoe as a Prop. 48 candidate.
Farrington's Whitley Fehoko
has drawn the ire of some Utah coaches.
Though he committed to the Utes last summer, the talented two-way lineman insisted on visiting other schools during recruiting season.
"Utah wants me to commit 100 percent. Some of the coaches don't want me to visit other schools," Fehoko said.
The versatile tackle has scholarship offers from Boise State, Utah, San Diego State, Washington and UNLV. He has visits lined up for Washington (Saturday), UNLV and Utah.
Playing time is a factor in his decision-making.
"Playing in the Pac-10 would really be nice, but I don't want to be on the sideline," he said.
San Diego State, UNLV and Washington want him to play offensive line. Utah and Boise State project him to play defensive tackle.
Fehoko intends to keep the list of contenders small at this point.
"It's a hard decision to make. You start to build relationships with these coaches," he said.
The 6-foot 290-pounder will play in the All-American Bowl on Jan. 5. The trip and the adventure take the edge off the disappointment of not being courted by Hawaii, he said.
He is not the only offensive lineman receiving phone calls from prominent coaches.
Radford's mammoth lineman, Ramsey Feagai, is considering scholarship offers from Hawaii, UNLV, San Jose State and New Mexico State. He is already a D-I qualifier and carries a 3.5 GPA.
Kamehameha-Maui's Walter Kaahaiali'i committed to BYU last week, becoming the first Warrior from the Pukalani campus to secure a football scholarship. He was also targeted by Oregon and Weber State.
Micah Kia, the most mysterious of local recruits, is in Los Angeles this weekend. He and Konawaena standout Dylan Rush are visiting UCLA. Kia, at 6-5, 260 pounds, tried out for the Mililani basketball team for the first time a couple of weeks ago. Coach Hiram Akina intends to keep Kia on the roster despite his busy schedule.
Kia has scholarship offers from Hawaii, Boise State, Washington, New Mexico State, Utah, Colorado, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Oregon State, Oregon, Cal and San Diego State.
Radford's Ian Scheuring, a 6-5 300-pounder, is visiting New Mexico State this weekend.
Ryan Pohl and Kawika Shook of Kamehameha made commitments prior to last week. Pohl made his verbal commitment to Oregon State, where former UH assistant Mike Cavanaugh is the O-line coach.
Shook gave New Mexico State his verbal commitment on Dec. 6.
Kahuku's Devin Unga
has a scholarship offer from Utah. The 6-foot-1, 201-pound Unga is currently playing basketball for the defending Oahu Interscholastic Association champion Red Raiders.
Konawaena's Cody Silsley
is gaining serious attention from Boise State. The 6-foot senior amassed impressive statistics in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation this season, but it was his performance in California summer camps that yielded the most attention.
In addition to Damien's Lolomana Mikaele
(visiting San Diego State this weekend) and Michael Sipili
(committed to Oregon State) there are a few standouts here. Qualifying by NCAA Division I standards, however, is a hurdle for some.
Kahuku's Joseph Faifili, who had some academic struggles this season, has transferred back to Utah and will graduate high school there under the watchful eye of his father.
Another standout is Saint Louis' Kamalu Umu, who could be the next Crusaders lineman to reach the next level.
Lahainaluna's Peni Fiuangaihetau committed to Weber State on Dec. 2.
Three players at this position have already made commitments. Elliott Purcell
of Saint Louis committed to New Mexico State on Nov. 27, turning down a late offer from Hawaii.
Kapono Rawlins-Crivello of Kamehameha committed to Boise State last summer, picking the Broncos over New Mexico State.
The aforementioned Rush, who wants to become a movie director, committed to UCLA last summer, as well. He recently transferred to his district school, Ka'u. He is a two-time state wrestling champion and wanted more practice competition, which was available at Ka'u, but not at his former school, Konawaena.
Russell Wantowski of Radford has a scholarship offer from New Mexico State, where he is visiting this weekend.
Kahuku's Micah Wily and B.J. Beatty also have scholarship offers from the Aggies. Beatty is weighing additional offers from Hawaii and Utah.
The sleeper of the bunch is Pac-Five's Russel Fisher. A true scholar-athlete, Fisher has tremendous lateral speed, and even at 6-2, 250 pounds, chases down quick running backs for losses.
Moanalua's Quinton Tang
has already accepted a scholarship offer from Hawaii. The only obstacle left is becoming a D-I qualifier.
Kahuku's Kevin Unga, twin brother of Devin, has an offer from Utah. The Ungas are originally from that state.
accepted a scholarship offer from UH at the same time his Menehunes teammate, Tang, did. Interest from most Pac-10 schools had been considerable, Moanalua coach Arnold Martinez
Hawaii and Boise State were the only schools to make offers, however, because Leti is not quite a D-I qualifier yet.