Freshman impresses at combine


POSTED: Tuesday, June 02, 2009

He's played on a national level, has a college scholarship offer and has yet to start the ninth grade.

Welcome to the world of Reeve Koehler. The skilled offensive lineman was one of three freshmen to perform in last Saturday's Pacific Islands Athletic Alliance Football Combine at Saint Louis School. Koehler, younger brother of former All-State lineman Solomon Koehler, is 6-foot-3 and 298 pounds. Training with other linemen in Brian Derby's clinic has honed his skills, as he showed in the Youth All-American Bowl in January. He bench-pressed 225 pounds 12 times and posted solid numbers in the other drills: 1.8 seconds in the 10-yard dash, 5.5 in the 40, 8.2 in the L-drill, 4.77 in the T-drill and 7 feet, 6 inches in the broad jump.

The 14-year-old has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, which means finding the right school means a lot more than just a fit with athletics. Koehler has enrolled at Saint Louis.

“;Saint Louis gives him the best chance to succeed. They're the only private school willing to work with him, which is a big plus,”; his father, Rick Koehler, said.

Leapers soar too high

Maybe it was a bit of leniency or a lack of caution in measuring pre-jump arm lengths, but 12 of the 275 athletes at the combine measured at 40 inches or higher in their vertical jumps.

That's Michael Jordan territory.

A number like that had never been recorded at the combine before, which led executive director Doris Sullivan to consider a closer examination of the numbers recorded at the vertical-jump station. In the eight years of the PIAA combine, accurate numbers and credibility have always been the goal.

“;Whatever the situation was, we have to be accurate. We're not going to use those (vertical jump) numbers,”; Sullivan said. “;Apparently, the athletes didn't extend their arms as high as possible, and that makes a big difference.”;

One of the most eye-popping numbers of the day, a 45-inch vertical jump by Word of Life lineman Judah Parker, was nullified. The 6-2, 210-pound junior jumped 32 inches a year ago, and his dedication to training — three times a week flipping tires, lifting kettle bells and more — is matched by few.

He tapped all the bars on his jump, which is a rare feat regardless. There's a good chance his vertical is somewhere in the 37 to 39-inch range. Whatever the case, Parker had a strong showing.

Parker did fine with a 4.4 in the T-drill and a 4.74 in the 40-yard dash. Word of Life, which will return a majority of its linemen, had early success last season in nonconference play against D-II teams, including a win at Nanakuli.

“;Coach said we're probably going to start on offense and back up on defense,”; Parker said of himself and the other ironmen of the Firebrands.

Taz gets defensive

Anyone who has played Madden football with combine coordinator and Mililani head coach Darnell Arceneaux knows that the former Saint Louis, Utah and Hawaiian Islanders quarterback can dominate the video game, but not quite through the air.

Arceneaux's favorite ploy has always been to take an ultra-quick safety and turn him into a rover who wreaks havoc anywhere on the field. That's why it shouldn't be a surprise that he has Dalaunte “;Taz”; Stevenson at safety for Mililani for the first time. Stevenson's versatility as an offensive weapon will still be incorporated, but he will have a freedom as a rover that could be very interesting.

“;He's an athlete. If he can be in the box, but get back, he's going to be dangerous. We've got him backpedalling,”; Arceneaux said. “;Rocky Long (of New Mexico) had his Radar defense with a Lobo position. We'll have our 'Trojan' position. He'll still play some offense, but we want to showcase what he can do.”;

Stevenson went to the combine not to work out, but to assist. He wore a white PIAA T-shirt, unlike the players, who wore gray.

Hilliard hits the weights

Among the rising younger players is Kamden Hilliard, a 6-foot-2, 226-pound defensive end. Hilliard, who will be a sophomore, is the younger brother of All-State running back Dalton Hilliard. His game, though, is entirely different.

“;I've been working with our coaches at Punahou on explosion,”; he said of the weight training and discus throwing during the spring.

Dalton, who is bound for UCLA this summer, raved plenty about his brother's improvement. Kamden, though, says he's got a long way to go.

“;In the 1-on-1s, I did pretty well, but my teammate, (offensive lineman) Thurston (Kino), he knows all my tricks,”; Hilliard said.

Matagi takes his shot

One of the top linemen in the Maui Interscholastic League, Elvis Matagi, came to the event.

“;I want to play against the best and get noticed,”; the 6-2, 250-pound defensive tackle said.

His coach, J.W. Kenton, accompanied the senior.

“;All these camps help with exposure. Hopefully, the numbers compare well with the best Hawaii players,”; he said.”;

Travis tackles bench press

While linemen racked up 40-inch vertical jumps that remain under question, there is no doubt about the raw strength measured in the bench press. Punahou junior Liloa Travis, a 6-foot, 240-pound quarterback, repped 185 pounds 18 times to lead everyone at the position.

He looks like a lineman.

“;I try to prove 'em wrong with how I throw. I might not be the fastest, but I can throw the ball,”; he said, noting that his favorite player is another big man — Donovan McNabb.

Travis, who has a 3.0 grade-point average, is among a group of slingers who have big shoes to fill. Punahou's prolific passers of last season, Cayman Shutter and Kimo Makaula, have graduated. Travis plans to cut his weight down to 220 by working out almost daily. At Punahou, they hit the weight room four times a week.

Early morning drive

Anthony Dela Cruz and Devin Takahashi made the pre-sunrise trip from Nanakuli to participate in the combine. Takahashi, a senior center, and Dela Cruz, a senior offensive tackle, are part of a resurgence of offseason interest at the school.

Takahashi, a stout 5-7 and 279 pounds, produced solid numbers in an earlier combine held by Hawaii Athletes In Action at Radford.

“;Everybody heard I did good, so they started coming out more. You gotta lead by example,”; said Takahashi, who had 29 reps on the 185 bench press and 21 reps at 225.

Dela Cruz, who repped 185 pounds 17 times, added that they've lined up on Sundays to work on their T-drill.

The offseason fervor isn't limited to the Golden Hawks, of course. Aiea offensive lineman Rayven Lafua says there are 60 players in the weight room every day.

Paying it forward

Among the familiar faces helping out at the combine — a who's who of former Hawaii high school greats — was Texas Tech linebacker Sam Fehoko. The support staff arrived at Saint Louis School's Gerber Fieldhouse by 6 a.m. to set up the stations. Fehoko helped at the bench press.

“;I've been here many times and it's always good to give back,”; he said. “;This is an awesome combine. It gives everybody a look at who's coming up.”;

Fehoko's two seasons in Texas have been enlightening.

“;Texas is all about football. It's like Hawaii, but huge. We have the same level of football as Texas,”; said Fehoko, who has taken in some prep football in legendary towns like Ulysses. “;We need a lot of exposure since we're so far away. We're doing everything we can. It's up to the kids. They're so talented. They just have to hit the books. You've got to hit the books and the weight room.”;

Fehoko watched his younger brother, V.J. Fehoko, pump 225 pounds on the bench 33 times. Sam has spent his summer working more on agility and speed. His rep number at 225 is down to a still-respectable 28.

“;If he started lifting again, he'd be stronger than me,”; V.J. said.

Sam has gotten used to the flat territory of Lubbock. In fact, he thinks it's a great place to focus on school and football.

“;What we need is more of a Polynesian flavor. I'd love to help open a door for more kids to go there,”; he said.




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