St. Francis goes west to get Hawaii's best
This chapter in local recruiting history could be titled, "St. Francis East."
Not to be confused with the local hospital, this is a tale of St. Francis University in Pennsylvania. What makes the school unique is this: By the fall, it's possible the Red Flash could field 11 starters in football from Polynesia.
The Division I-AA school finalized its most recent signings with linemen Aaron Watson of Nanakuli and Cody Kekipi of Punahou. Both will receive full scholarships.
Another recent signing was Russel Fisher of Pac-Five. Last year, St. Francis signed Bronson Abrigo of Saint Louis. In 2004, the school signed Daniel Otineru of Kapolei and Fehi Sevelo of Damien.
St. Francis also signed Derek Uperesa, a 6-foot-3, 300-pound lineman, last year. He's from Samoa (as are some other Red Flash players), but he attended a combine here in Hawaii.
Watson's connection to the East Coast school began in an unusual way. When Pacific Islands Athletic Alliance executive director Doris Sullivan put out a request on behalf of St. Francis, Mililani coach James Millwood sent word about Watson, a talented scholar-athlete who played in the HUB Goodwill Senior Bowl.
Within days, Watson's video was in Pennsylvania.
"The coaches saw it and were ready to make him an offer immediately. They couldn't understand why no one had offered him," Sullivan said.
The St. Francis local connection extends beyond football. Former Pearl City standout Christy Ayers is on the women's basketball team. Former Damien standout David Woodward played volleyball there and is currently a graduate assistant coach with the women's team.
St. Francis is also examining the video of a prominent Big Island lineman -- Kamehameha-Hawaii standout Ikaika Mahoe.
Maybe it's the glitz of a famous alum that has Hawaii athletes converging on Mississippi Valley State. Four more local student-athletes recently accepted scholarships from the Division I-AA school.
Kamehameha's Riley Castillio and Mililani's Gabe Montero accepted track and field scholarships and will be invited to play football as walk-ons, according to Sullivan.
Devin Aguigui, a defensive back from Campbell, and Zack Gilarski of King Kekaulike also committed to MVSU. Gilarski is the first football player from King Kekaulike to accept a football scholarship. MVSU is also interested in Na Alii fullback Aaron Wood.
Certainly more effective than the name recognition that former NFL star Jerry Rice brings to the school are upgrades courtesy of generous benefactors. Rice donated $9 million to his alma mater, and blues legend B.B. King gave $13 million for a recording studio that provides the school with a new major.
Indirectly, Castillio, Montero and Aguigui are benefiting from the success of several local athletes at Alcorn State, which plays in the same conference. Alcorn is the college home of former Hawaii student-athletes Latoya Wily, Bronson Carvalho, Oren Long, Sara Jo Peters and Kel Kunitake.
has seen plenty of high school sports. As an aspiring broadcaster with the Stadium Stars, he is branching out to do public announcing in other sports, including basketball at Kalaheo.
After watching a Hilo freshman perform last week at the Lee Cashman Classic, Garcia was left nearly speechless.
"I have never seen a freshman player so dominant in years as is Vicky Tagalicod from Hilo High School," he said.
He was among many, including Maryknoll coach Bobby Samson and Radford coach David Lane, who were impressed. Samson called Tagalicod, a multi-position standout at 5-8, the best player in the tourney, by far.
Tagalicod was named to the all-tourney team along with Kamia Smith of Radford, Shanadee Canon and Kendra Fischer of Kalaheo, and Sophie Merrifield of Punahou.
Hilo is a title contender in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation, but Konawaena and Honokaa are strong favorites to claim the league's two state tournament berths. That means Oahu hoops fans may not get another chance to watch Tagalicod again this season.
Raiders get defensive:
Iolani's fortress was brutally efficient during last week's Lady Tiger Challenge. Though the Raiders limited Honokaa to 25 points on Friday, their highlight came a day later vs. Lahainaluna.
Against the co-favorite of the Maui Interscholastic League, Iolani held the Lady Lunas to just eight points until the final 3 minutes. Iolani finished with a 57-17 victory, just another lopsided win in their 10-0 start to nonconference play.
Alise Hatch, Lahainaluna's zone buster, sank four treys against host McKinley. Iolani, however, simply smothered her.
Blanketed by Iolani's defense, she didn't sink a trey until 2:21 remained in the game.
Ka'u senior Dylan Rush, who won the 275-pound weight class at the state championships recently, will be named to the Wrestling USA All-American team.
"He received a request for information and a photo from them," said Greg Rush, Dylan's father.
Rush, who will play football at UCLA this fall, has played in the All-American Classic (football) and was named a powerlifting/weightlifting All-American by Bigger Faster Stronger magazine earlier in the year.
Rush is involved with judo season now, and if he earns national honors in that sport, he could become a rarity: a four-sport All-American.
Castle quarterback Bryce Kalauokaaea
is leaning toward junior college. The left-hander has several Division II offers, but will likely go to a JC to get more exposure before seeking a D-I school after one season.
He is already a D-I academic qualifier.
New York diamond:
of Radford has accepted a scholarship from Wagner College (N.Y.) to play baseball. Wagner is a Division I school.
Athletes of the week
, Hilo basketball:
The 5-foot-8 freshman scored 60 points in three games at the Lee Cashman Classic and was named to the all-tournament team.
Scored 19 points in a loss to Punahou.
Shaena-Lyn Kuehu, Punahou: Scored 23 points as the Buffanblu rallied past host Kalaheo in the final of the Cashman Classic.
Chelsie Sato, McKinley: Scored 21 points in a loss to Lahainaluna.
Scored three goals in a win over Pac-Five.
Beth Knorek, Punahou: Scored three goals in a win over Pac-Five.
To nominate ...
To nominate an athlete of the week, contact the Star-Bulletin Sports Department by 11 p.m. Sunday: