HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL COMBINE
DENNIS ODA / doda@starBulletin.com
Kalani Awong of Kaiser ran the 40-yard dash at yesterday's PIAA combine at Saint Louis School.
High school prospects strut their stuff
The web of Hawaii high school football never ceases to amaze.
At the seventh annual Pacific Islands Athletic Alliance football combine, between the bench pressing, vertical jumping, agility drilling and sprinting, schools entwined and players looked ahead to the start of the 2008 season - just two months away.
The event drew players from across the state, 271 in all, to Saint Louis.
There was Kamehameha-Maui defensive end/linebacker Kupono Hong, who had one of the best bench-press efforts of the day. Hong repped 225 pounds 27 times, but says his new personal record could've been more.
"The racks threw me off. I hit the bar one time and it shakes," he said. A year ago, Hong repped 185 pounds - the high-school combine standard weight - 26 times. Recently, he said, he repped that weight 42 times.
"I just train hard and use a wide grip," he said, noting that many bench pressers use a close grip on the bar. "I go wide and it's less distance (to lift)."
DENNIS ODA / doda@starBulletin.com
Graham Rawley, one of 10 Waialua players at the combine, was tested in the broad jump.
One of Kamehameha-Maui's foes on the field is Baldwin, which had its share of Division I college talent in recent years. The latest is defensive end Mana Rosa, a 6-foot-2, 250-pound senior-to-be.
Rosa was on Oahu two weeks ago when national football writer Tom Lemming was in town. At the time, Rosa had interest from Oregon State and no scholarship offers. As of yesterday, he had offers from UNLV and Utah. Hawaii, Washington and Washington State have shown interest, as well.
"Doris has helped me a lot. I really appreciate her," Rosa said of PIAA executive director Doris Sullivan.
Oregon State, Rosa added, is still interested. "I kind of want to go there," he added.
Rosa, coincidentally, wasn't satisfied with any of his combine numbers. His strength and explosiveness showed more during 1-on-1 drills at the end of the day.
Some of the standouts during the 1-on-1s came from Waialua, which sent six linemen and four skill-position athletes to the combine. By the looks of Waialua's tall, big linemen, the Bulldogs may have a lot of promise this fall.
"We can't wait," senior-to-be Hunter Thomson said.
Waialua, a Division II school in the Oahu Interscholastic Association White Division, will play Iolani at Aloha Stadium.
"I want us to show the bigger schools what we've got," Thomson said.
Iolani is often outsized by opponents, but that hasn't stopped the Raiders from outplaying them. Kellen Imada, an Iolani receiver, posted one of the fastest 40-yard dash times with a 4.45.
"It felt good. We do a lot of agility work, a lot of lifting," he said of Iolani's challenging offseason training program. "Squats, core kind of training."
Another receiver from the ILH, Pii Minns of Kamehameha, had impressive stats: 32 inches in the vertical and 4 seconds flat in the T-drill. He ran the 40 in 4.67 seconds - his first time running that distance.
"I don't really have something to base it on," said Minns, who is 6-3 and just completed track season plus spring football.
Another tall athlete with good numbers was Sitivenu Manu, a 6-4, 230-pound defensive end from Mililani. Manu went to school in Utah as a sophomore, moved back home and finished that year at Leilehua. He then attended Mililani last year.
Manu's quickness showed during the 1-on-1s, and his stats were solid: 33 inches in the vertical, 15 reps in the 225-pound bench press, 4.25 seconds in the T-drill and 7.1 in the L-drill.
"I'm happy with almost all of them except my bench and 40," said Manu, who ran a 4.9. "I need to keep up with my lifting."
Manu has a scholarship offer from Hawaii. Oregon State and Utah are also showing interest.
"Utah is my family school," he said.
Punahou's three-sport athlete, Kimo Makaula, participated in the 1-on-1s with linemen. A quarterback last season, he is switching back to outside linebacker and defensive end this fall. At 6-4 and 230 pounds, he is also slated to play tight end.
Makaula ran a 4.7 40 and repped 17 times at 185 pounds in the bench press.
"I was hoping for a 4.6 and 21 reps," he said.
He intends to attend five camps this summer: Oregon, Arizona, All-Poly, Just Win (on Maui) and Washington.
"I just want to show what I've got," he said.
For some linemen, just having a chance to participate and perform for the cameras was a new experience.
"We got to have contact. I like to chop and swim," said Mililani's mammoth nose guard, Aaron Anderson. "It's about getting your name out to the colleges."
Kamehameha left tackle Kala Friel agreed. "It's about getting recognized," the 6-foot-5 lineman said. "And lunch."
Previous combines drew dozens of D-I recruiters. This year, college coaches are not permitted to attend due to new NCAA rules.
"They used to always be watching you," said Farrington defensive end V.J. Fehoko, who saw his older brothers Whitley and Sam at the combines. "The 1-on-1s, it's a make or break."
Minns, like many other players, noted that the pressure was different without recruiters there.
"You could have your dream school watching. You don't want to mess up," he said.
There were plenty of high school coaches helping out. Mililani's Darnell Arceneaux and Ma'a Tanuvasa, Saint Louis defensive coordinator Jacob Yoro and Damien assistant Eddie Klaneski were among them. Sullivan would like to see the door open again for college coaches. The interest is certainly there.
"The NCAA told me to apply for an exception," she said. "I had two coaches call and ask during the combine about when they can get the results."
All in all, athletes like Minns are closing in on their final seasons and pushing harder.
"If you don't have anything going for you, you have only one year to prepare," he said. "Time is flying by. Freshman year feels like it was just yesterday."