HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREVIEW
Baldwin rebuilding its offense
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To get to the promised land, Baldwin will have to take an alternate route.
TOP 10 COUNTDOWN
With high school football starting on Aug. 15, the Star-Bulletin is counting down its preseason Top 10, as determined in a poll of coaches and media members:
With the departure of quarterback Jordan Helle and most of his offensive partners in crime, the Maui Interscholastic League defending champions' potency shifts to the other side of the ball.
Coaches and media voted the Bears No. 7 in the Star-Bulletin Football Preseason Top 10.
Baldwin, headed up by top-tier Hawaii recruit Mana Rosa at defensive end, will try to punish opponents with their backs to the end zone this year.
"Our defense looks good," coach A.J. Roloos said. "They're flying around, just getting all excited. We got good leaders out here, so we're gonna be defense-heavy this year."
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The look of the team has changed, but Baldwin's goal remains the same: become the first neighbor-island team to win the Division I state football championship.
No. 7 Baldwin
Here's a look at Baldwin's recent history and its schedule this season:
2007 (9-2, state semifinal)
Previous four years
||10-1-1, state semifinal
||11-1, state semifinal
||10-2, state semifinal
||at King Kekaulike
* - at War Memorial Stadium
"We preach that year in and year out," said second-year head coach A.J. Roloos. "We got the potential to do it. We just can't get over that little hump."
He laughed. That would be the state semifinals, where the Bears - debuting at No. 7 this year in the Star-Bulletin Football Preseason Top 10 - have fallen in each of the last three seasons.
"All the coaches believe in that and make the kids believe in it," Roloos affirmed. "We just built our goal high and work for it."
Gone is second-team all-state quarterback Jordan Helle, along with all other skill position players on offense except junior slotback Aaron Ross (5--foot-7, 140 pounds). Senior receivers Chase Nakamura, Kalei Kamahele, Skyler Cabacungan and running back Chansi Bolosan teamed with Helle to form a potent spread-offense punch that got 9-2 Baldwin within a touchdown of the state final last year.
The gunslinger will be missed.
"Jordan's a big loss. I had him for three years at the varsity," Roloos said. "And it's hard to replace Chase. His work ethic is unbelievable at practice."
Baldwin wasn't able to schedule any scrimmages before its nonleague season opener against Kamehameha-Hawaii on Aug. 22, and Roloos wants a steady approach at practice until the team's fledgling offense takes wing.
The Bears will get an early test when they host Mission Viejo (Calif.) on Aug. 29, the second week of the season.
On paper: To get back to the lofty stage Baldwin is accustomed, the Maui Interscholastic League titan will have to rally around nine returning starters on defense until a totally overhauled offensive unit gets its feet wet.
But Roloos is confident with the crop on the rise.
"We'll stick with the same offense," Roloos said. "We got some good, young receivers coming up and our O-line (three returnees) will be our veterans. We should be pretty good by the time we start our (league) opener against Maui High (Sept. 12). We'll start with the five men up front, and then work our way from there."
The contributions of senior defensive end Mana Rosa (6-3, 245 pounds), who will play both ways, will be key. When the highly recruited Rosa is needed as a tight end, Roloos won't hesitate to call his number.
The skinny: Success will hinge on how quickly former JV quarterback JR Dedios (5-9, 150) and St. Anthony transfer Buta Wilhelm-Ioane (5-11, 180) learn the keys to the four-wide system they inherit from Helle.
"They're going to be fighting for the spot," Roloos said. "We're taking it slow, the two guys are learning the offense. We're just taking it step-by-step before we move on to more difficult routes and stuff like that."
Roloos plans to platoon eight receivers in and out, four at a time, until some make a strong case for more playing time. An ensemble of running backs will replace Bolosan, headed by senior Keith Flores (5-8, 195).
X-factor: Baldwin will likely rely extensively on its senior-laden defense to shut down opponents.
"Our linebacker corps, all seniors, is going to be good," Roloos said. "We got John Lotulelei (5-11, 230), Devin Sakamoto (5-8, 190), and Kaleo Feistier (5-11, 180)."
Seniors Mikey Webb (5-8, 170) and Kainalu Garso (5-10, 150) anchor the D at the corners.