RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Damien's Kama Bailey is following in the footsteps of another prolific Monarchs running back -- Kealoha Pilares.
Bailey makes ’em miss
The Damien running back is 1-yard short of 1,000 after only five games
KAMA Bailey might remind some people of his predecessor, but make no mistake -- the Monarchs' senior running back possesses a style all his own.
It's not quite a power game or a finesse approach, but one that allows Bailey, at 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, to make a cut -- or three -- and yet bleed off contact effortlessly.
Combining an innate ability to sense defenders coming from the usual blind spots and formidable leg strength, Bailey is both elusive and tough to bring down when he does get hit, drawing comparisons to his forerunner and 2005 Star-Bulletin Offensive Player of the Year, Kealoha Pilares.
The production is similar, at least. Through five games, Bailey has 999 yards on 84 carries, for a ridiculous 11.89 yards-per-carry average and nine touchdowns for the 2-2-1 Monarchs.
Pilares, now a key cog in the University of Hawaii football team's running game, topped 1,900 yards with 23 touchdowns his senior year.
"People say we are similar with each other," Bailey said. "But he runs a lot faster than me, he's a lot shiftier."
He admitted with a grin he learned some of his best techniques -- such as trying to limit himself to a single lateral cut before turning upfield -- from observing Pilares tear up all comers his senior year.
That made Pilares laugh. The UH back recalled that his understudy, as just a sophomore, was already a star in the making.
"He has his own style, but it's kind of like mine because everybody would get it mixed up between me and him," Pilares said. "I kind of knew he was going to be a good player from when I was there. He had all the right traits, the vision."
Bailey's teammates will tell you he's not opposed to some old-fashioned, smash-mouth football, either.
COURTESY DAMIEN MEMORIAL SCHOOL
Damien running back Kama Bailey is drawing comparisions to former Monarchs tailback and 2005 Star-Bulletin Offensive Player of the Year Kealoha Pilares, but the 5-foot-9, 180-pound senior has a style all his own. This season, Bailey is averaging 11.89 yards a carry and has already scored nine touchdowns for the 2-2-1 Monarchs.
"Kama will run through you if he has to," said senior offensive lineman Tyler Brown. "It's kind of like, 'I'm going there, so just try and stop me.' "
Bailey's opponents have found little success in that regard. Even though Damien -- known for its running game -- is reconstructing a solid passing offense under first-year coach Brian Derby, Bailey remains the focal point of the attack.
The opposition knows it, too: Bailey posted 13 touchdowns and 1,570 yards last season. He already has two three-touchdown games this year and put up 295 yards against Radford and 294 last week in a 46-19 loss to Iolani.
"He's carrying our offense, and hopefully we can get our passing game up to par so we can take some stress off of him," Derby said. "But he's incredible for us."
More than a 93-yard weave-and-sprint touchdown against Farrington, a Bailey 13-yard score against Pac-Five on a busted play resonates the most this season.
Bailey ran straight into two Wolfpack linemen, bounced off, somehow shook three more tackles on his way to the right corner and made a beeline for the pylon. He survived another hit from the back, cut back across the path of a final would-be assailant at the 2-yard line and found the Aloha Stadium end zone while his stunned opponents -- and teammates -- looked on.
"Nobody could wrap him up. It was incredible," Derby said.
Bailey has also broken free for a 72-yarder against the Raiders and went for 63 and a score at Radford.
Bailey explained that he tries to position himself accordingly on the fly, depending on where a tackle will land on his body. As for the ones he senses coming from behind, he chalks that up to natural instinct.
"I try to see where they're going to hit me, and I try to make a counter move off of there," Bailey said. "That usually helps me to break a tackle, and that's usually what happens. I just do my best to run fast, and make something happen."
Besides a rigorous offseason workout regimen to improve his strength, his coaches have marveled over Bailey's drive in the classroom. Through last semester, Bailey -- who enjoys math and aspires to be an architect -- had a 3.5 grade-point average and served as the secretary for the student government the last two years.
"Kama's a great student and a great citizen," running backs coach Darrell Santos said. "His work ethic is tremendous, he comes and leads by example. He works hard every snap, every drill. He supports his teammates and that's what makes him a tremendous citizen."