Anybody watching Waianae quarterback Kana Kawai in Friday night's 34-20 loss to St. Louis had to be somewhat amazed at his courage and skill.
Kawai put on quite a showBy Pat Bigold
Jason Gesser's 252-yard, three-touchdown performance for nationally ranked St. Louis overshadowed Kawai but a lot of Waianae fans had to rub their eyes when they saw his passing stats.
It's extremely rare to see the run-oriented Seariders' offense even approach 100 yards in the passing column, but Ka-wai threw for 166 (19 for 26) and a touchdown.
This is the same youngster who rescued the Seariders in the OIA playoff semifinals against Waipahu last Nov. 8. Stepping in for injured starter Mike Simpson in the second half with Waianae down, 16-6, he marshaled eight- and 12-play scoring drives with impeccable timing on the triple option to win it, 20-16.
Before Friday, he was 3-for-7 for 21 yards as a varsity quarterback.
St. Louis strong safety Geste Ornellas burned Kawai on his first play-action attempt Friday with a 39-yard interception return for a score that gave the shock-troop Crusaders a two-touchdown lead only 4:46 into the game.
Yet the 5-foot-8, 155-pound Waianae senior continued to put the ball in the air against the state's best defense. He hit speedy back Kamuela Black with a 15-yard touchdown pass a little more than six minutes after Ornellas' pick to cut the St. Louis lead in half.
No Waianae quarterback has thrown as many times or for as much yardage in a single game in a long time. Names like Glenn Freitas, Kekoa Kaluhiokalani and Sam Bailey come to mind.
"It showed the whole character of our team," said Waianae head coach Leo Taaca. "We might have been down 55-0 if we didn't put up a fight."
It could be that we'll see Kawai passing a lot this year. If he's unafraid to throw consistently against St. Louis' first string, chances are that he'll be a crowd-pleaser all through the OIA Red Conference schedule.
"Revenues are down in the OIA, so we figure that if we throw the ball 10 more times, maybe we'll get 100 more fans," said Taaca.
That may be a modest estimate.
With 6-foot, 200-pound fullback West Keliikipi looking very effective up the middle and Black showing speed afoot for quick outs, plus a capable group of receivers in 6-1, 170-pound senior wideout Chucky Narvaez, 6-0, 235-pound senior tight end Sammy Koahou and 5-8, 180-pound junior running back Duane Miller (a St. Louis transfer), the defending OIA champions appear improved and less predictable offensively than last year.
ALEGRE'S BEAT GOES ON: Jim Alegre, who just turned 60 and is in his 16th year as athletic director of Radford High School, said he'd planned to retire at the same time as Waialua High AD Noel Kawa-chi. But the man who coached four state basketball championship teams and taught physical education to Bette Midler decided to continue indefinitely under second-year principal Robert Stevens.
Alegre and Stevens go back a long way - Stevens was his first head football coach at Radford. "I'm excited about a lot of the things he has planned for the school," said Alegre, affirming that his strong working relationship with Stevens was a factor in his desire to stay on.
Alegre's Department of Education career dates back to 1959 when he was a teacher at Jarett Intermediate in Palolo. He transferred to Radford in 1961.
His basketball coaching career spanned 34 years.
HOPE FOR TRAINER: One of the things Alegre said he's excited about is the imminent arrival of a full-time certified athletic trainer.
He said his school has the list of applicants in hand and expects a recommendation by Friday. That gives Radford a good chance to get a trainer in place before the Rams open their OIA football season on Sept. 12 against Kaiser.