HAWAII GROWN REPORT
Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada took over at quarterback when starter Brian Hampton was injured on Navy's first drive of the game against Rutgers.
Flying high in the Navy
Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada is making the most of his chance as the starting quarterback
Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada and former Hawaii quarterback Michael Carter crossed paths at Kapolei High School. The association developed into a road that led the Hurricanes' quarterback to the United States Naval Academy.
Kaheaku-Enhada began his sophomore season as the No. 2 quarterback on the Navy depth chart behind Brian Hampton. But when Hampton suffered a serious knee injury on the first drive in the Rutgers game, Kaheaku-Enhada came off the bench to complete the game and finish the season as the starting QB.
By the numbers
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"I got exposure to the offense through Coach Carter and fell in love with it," Kaheaku-Enhada said.
That offense is the triple option that Navy head coach Paul Johnson used with much success at Hawaii and Georgia Southern prior to accepting the job at the Naval Academy on Dec. 9, 2001.
Kaheaku-Enhada began thinking about the Naval Academy at the end of his junior year at Kapolei and soon was talking with assistant coach Ken Niumatalolo, a Radford graduate and former UH quarterback. The Air Force Academy and Hawaii also were interested.
"I had a decision to make, but I pretty much knew what I wanted to do," said Kaheaku-Enhada of his college choice.
"It was mostly the opportunity to play Division I football, and I wanted to play quarterback. Coach Carter told me Coach Johnson was a genius and that's the guy you want to play for.
"The Academy is known for its academics. The balance between academics, sports and the military is admirable, so amazing what they do here. I wanted to challenge myself and do something different."
"We just saw tape of Kaipo and could tell he was very athletic," Johnson said. "They (at Kapolei) were doing some of the things that we were doing and he had a knack for doing it."
After graduating from Kapolei in 2004, Kaheaku-Enhada spent a year at the Naval Academy Prep School in Newport, R.I., at the suggestion of the coaches. That gave him a year to become better acquainted with the triple option and to really find out if he wanted to be in the military.
"After prep school I knew what to expect (being in the military)," Kaheaku-Enhada said. "I made so many friends there I knew I wasn't going to give it up. I'm happy with that decision."
He spent last season playing on special teams and as a backup wide receiver.
"He was one of our most athletic players and I wanted to get him on the field. The deal was he would move back to quarterback in the spring," Johnson said.
Kaheaku-Enhada was just happy for the opportunity to be on the field. He competed on the kickoff and punt-return teams.
He thought he did OK in the spring, but wasn't satisfied because he knew there was room for improvement. The 5-foot-11 188-pounder does not think the triple option is difficult to master.
"It is not hard once you start practicing and get used to it. It is exactly the same as Kapolei from the play calling to my checks," said Kaheaku-Enhada, who was happy but also surprised when Johnson named him the No. 2 quarterback before the first game.
When Hampton went down, Kaheaku-Enhada took over.
"The injury happened right in front of our bench and it took a lot of air our of the team. We struggled and didn't play well," said Johnson, who then had to get the team ready for Notre Dame in a game played in the Baltimore Ravens' stadium.
COURTESY U.S. NAVAL ACADEMY
Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada has plans to join the Marine Corps after graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy and hopefully qualify for pilot training.
"We looked at what we want to do offensively. We thought Kaipo was a little better because of his background and mechanically he was ready."
No longer being the backup quarterback changed things for Kaheaku-Enhada.
"You have to work so much harder to prepare for a game. There is so much pressure on you," Kaheaku-Enhada aid. "I didn't realize that until about Thursday before the game, Then I realized it is really going to be this Saturday.
"I didn't think I played that well because we lost. I was happy to have one game under my belt so that I could just worry about getting better."
Johnson didn't detect any nervousness in his new starting quarterback.
"Kaipo has a lot of Hawaii in him. Not a lot bothers him. He is laid-back, but competitive. He has a pretty cool attitude. I think the kids kind of flock to him. Very seldom do you see Kaipo get flustered," Johnson said.
Navy would win its last four games, beating Duke 38-13, Eastern Michigan 49-21, Temple 42-6 and, after a bye week, Army 26-14.
"I would rather just do the three days of practice and go play," Kaheaku-Enhada said. "Army-Navy is such a big deal, the biggest emotional game of the year. When you wait for it you think about all the things that could happen.
"It's the end of the season and we know what we have to do. I definitely didn't play good, but it is a team game and everyone else had a great game."
Kaheaku-Enhada has one more game against Boston College on Dec. 30 in the Meineke Car Care Bowl at Charlotte, N.C.
"I'm just trying to keep my emotions down and focus on what I have to do," Kaheaku-Enhada said.
Kaheaku-Enhada is majoring in general science. Upon graduation and commissioning, he hopes to become a pilot in the Marine Corps.
Notes: Niumatalolo (Hawaii '89) is assistant head coach and works with the offensive line. Ivin Jasper (Hawaii '94) is Navy's quarterbacks coach, a position he played for the Rainbow Warriors (1991-93). ... Reyn Kaupiko (Kamehameha '03), a 5-11, 265-pound junior center, has seen action in one game this season. Karl Motoyama, an Iolani graduate, is a team manager.