HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL
STAR-BULLETIN / 2006
Senior running back Junior Mataafa, who helped Kahuku beat Baldwin 22-20 in last season's state semifinal at Aloha Stadium, will be back for the top-ranked Red Raiders.
Kahuku ranked No. 1
STORY SUMMARY »
Think life at the top is easy? How can it be, especially at the high school level.
Top 10 Countdown
With high school football starting tomorrow, the Star-Bulletin is counting down its preseason Top 10, as determined in a poll of coaches and media members:
2. Saint Louis
Hampered by turnovers, academic probation and inexperience at several positions, the Kahuku Red Raiders are no lock to defend their state football championship.
Coaches and media, however, aren't entirely rebuffed by Kahuku's challenges. The voters gave the Red Raiders the No. 1 ranking in the Star-Bulletin Football Preseason Top 10.
Coach Reggie Torres is turning to Timpview (Utah) transfer Jray Galeai to lead a revamped offense. Defensively, the Red Raiders will actually be small -- or rather, smaller than last year's stellar unit.
If this all sounds disconcerting, worry not, Red Raider fans. This also means more scout work is ahead for hopeful giant killers near and far.
Kahuku will be tested early when it meets second-ranked Saint Louis tomorrow at Aloha Stadium.
The Red Raiders, if anyone forgot, squeaked by the Crusaders 7-6 for the state championship last season.
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A year ago, Reggie Torres was in a bind. The first-year varsity head coach had offensive coordinator Darren Johnson and a reworked playbook ready to roll for the Red Raiders. But Johnson's new job took him away from the North Shore and Kahuku went back to basics.
At Square One, Torres put a high priority on complete personnel analysis. With a squad of nearly 100 players, that meant he would place long-term goals ahead of short-term excitement. Kahuku, running on almost every play, gave a ton of playing time to reserves and lost to Punahou in the season opener, 20-18.
Kahuku continued to rely on a powerful offensive line and a dominant defense to win its next three games. Despite a midseason upset loss to McKinley, Kahuku closed out the year with eight consecutive wins, almost entirely reliant on the ground game and a superior defensive unit.
A radical 22-20 win over Baldwin on a last-second flea-flicker play in the state semifinal was certainly a godsend. A 7-6 win over previously unbeaten Saint Louis in the state final sealed a championship for Torres in his debut season.
Imagine what could have been, though, with a complete offensive system in place from the start of spring practice through the fall. That's one of the reasons Torres is more confident this season, and the panel of coaches and media in the Star-Bulletin Football Preseason Top 10 agrees. Voters gave Kahuku 11 of 15 possible first-place votes for a No. 1 ranking.
"The program and the school getting the recognition is good, but for us as coaches and the team, it's not how you start, (it's) how you finish," said Torres, a teacher on campus. "Being ranked No. 1 is nothing, it's how you sustain it."
After two scrimmages last week, the Red Raiders leap into the fire tomorrow with a showdown against No. 2-ranked Saint Louis at Aloha Stadium. The Crusaders garnered the other four first-place votes that didn't go to Kahuku.
SB FILE / 2006
Kahuku senior running back Junior Mataafa is one of Kahuku's offensive weapons this year. The Red Raiders have won five out of the last seven state Division I championships.
While Saint Louis will feature playmaking quarterback Micah Mamiya, Kahuku will turn to first-year signal-caller Jray Galeai. He is the son of former Kahuku standout Raymond Galeai, who Torres considers possibly the best athlete to ever come out of Red Raider nation.
The younger Galeai was a safety at Timpview (Utah) last season but has some experience under center.
"He just has to get comfortable. The type of offense we run, we want a mobile quarterback," Torres said.
"He's a very talented kid. He's got great vision, great leadership. The only thing he has to develop is confidence in what we're doing. Right now, he's still learning, still doubtful. He just has to think less and react more," Torres added.
Junior Mataafa, one of the state's top game-breakers, is back for his senior season.
The O-line lost Anthony Siilata (6-foot-2, 305 pounds) when he was switched from guard to nose tackle.
"Moving Siilata is a big gap to fill. It's a timing process," Torres said. "Our O-line is our strength, but we don't have all our big guys in there. Some of them are on academic probation. We're still finding ourselves."
Gone are four All-State defenders. With a smaller lineup, defensive coordinator Oliver Haiola is revamping schemes to match the personnel. He has talent galore, but only some, like All-State first-team safety Shiloah Te'o, are proven.
The biggest surprise of August has been center Lala Ellsworth. The 6-foot-4, 300-pound junior missed summer workouts due to family obligations on the farm. He showed his mettle during last week's scrimmages.
"We found ourselves an awesome center," Torres said.
As for the rematch with Saint Louis, it's unlikely that either team will risk injury to key players for very long. Saint Louis carries more than 90 players, as does Kahuku.
"I know Delbert's goal is to make it to the end, and it's the same with us," Torres said of his counterpart at Saint Louis.
No. 1 Kahuku Red Raiders
Here's a look at Kahuku's results from the 2006 football season and its schedule this season:
||at Bingham (Utah)