JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Damien running back Kealoha Pilares is the Star-Bulletin's Offensive Player of the Year.
Pilares uncomfortable up front
UNASSUMING off the field, but precise and explosive on it, Kealoha Pilares has the makings of a future fighter pilot.
For the time being, the Damien running back will have to settle for Star-Bulletin Offensive Player of the Year honors.
Pilares, who longs to become a pilot one day, rushed for 1,209 yards in Interscholastic League of Honolulu play, averaging 173 yards per game at 6.9 yards per attempt.
Those numbers included a season-closing 300-yard effort on 50 carries at Iolani. His performance, and that of his steady offensive line, nearly gave Damien a shot at a state-tournament berth. The Monarchs scored 49 points and still lost to the offensive juggernaut of Iolani.
Including his nonconference totals, the 5-foot-9, 175-pound senior rushed for 1,900 yards on 237 attempts, an average of 8 yards per carry and 190 yards per game. He scored 23 touchdowns, with a long run of 76 yards.
Pilares did this despite the fact that Damien lacked a consistent passing game. Damien's run-pass ratio was approximately 70-30.
"Kealoha is outstanding. He's a threat everywhere," said Punahou coach Kale Ane, who is also a defensive coordinator. "Special teams, running back, catching the ball out of the backfield. He did it all. It's great to see someone that good who is a great kid, has respect for all schools and does well in academics."
Despite the enormous statistics, Pilares was always fervent about crediting his offensive line.
"I think that's part of who he is, a very humble kid. He works hard, does a lot of good things, a lot of things right," Monarchs co-head coach Dean Nakagawa said. "He's an example of if you do things right, what can happen. He's the ultimate team player."
Team player, indeed. When Pilares was a sophomore, Damien had shifty Ranson DeCosta at running back. Pilares played cornerback, then safety. Damien spotted him at running back last year behind powerful Vaa Faualo. In the offseason, he trained to become a wide receiver.
Then came the decision to move Pilares, who had worked diligently with track and football assistant coach Eddie Klaneski on his speed and technique, to running back.
"Him not wanting to be in the spotlight, that's his nature, and that's why he's well-liked by his teammates," Nakagawa said.
Pilares outpointed Iolani's prolific run-and-shoot quarterback, Kiran Kepo'o, in the balloting. The senior southpaw passed for 1,322 yards and 15 touchdowns in seven ILH games. He completed 98 of 184 pass attempts in league play and guided the Raiders to the Division II state championship.
The 6-2, 220-pound Kepo'o was followed in the voting by Kahuku running back Malosi Te'o. Also receiving votes were Iolani running back Mike Hirokawa, Kamehameha wide receiver Aaron Nichols, Radford running back Alex Daniels and versatile Moanalua quarterback-slotback-running back Stanford Leti.
Te'o had mammoth production in the latter part of the season after taking over the starting tailback position for the Red Raiders. Tight end Devin Unga and offensive linemen Latu Tupou and Ken Livai joined their Red Raider teammate on the first team, giving the state championship squad four selections on offense.
The voting was especially tight in a couple of areas. Miah Ostrowski of Punahou and Lofa Liilii of Aiea made the first team by slim margins, as did several of the first-team offensive linemen.
6-2, 220, Sr.
5-9, 175, Sr.
5-9, 185, Sr.
5-9, 163, Jr.
5-10, 160, Jr.
6-1, 201, Sr.
6-1, 260, Sr.
6-1, 295, Sr.
5-10, 298, Sr.
6-4, 315, Sr.
6-4, 298, Sr.
6-0, 190, Sr.
Placekicker -- Jamie Whitworth, Radford, 6-0, 170, Sr.
Kali Kuia, Aiea; Kalehua Moniz, Baldwin; Bryce Kalauokaaea, Castle; Stanford Leti, Moanalua.
Running back: Kenneth Faumui, Farrington; Alex Daniels, Farrington; Darius Fuller, Waianae.
Wide receiver: Cody Silsley, Konawaena; River Kim, Punahou; Cameron Bayne, Saint Louis; Blaine Kobashigawa, Castle; Jon Santiago, Kapolei.
Offensive line: Kawika Shook, Kamehameha; Caleb Alaelua, Mililani; Cameron Petro-Sakuma, Iolani; Timothy Gasolo, Damien; Michael Moefu, Kapolei; Bronson Tiwanak, Damien, Nicholas Spotkaeff, Waianae; Kealakai Maiava, Baldwin; Kyle Otineru, Saint Louis.
Tight end: Tanner Fetui, Farrington.
Placekicker: River Kim, Punahou; Kody Adams, Iolani.