Tago smooths out the edges


POSTED: Wednesday, October 07, 2009

When Pat Silva took over the Roosevelt football program earlier this year, he was not quite sure what to expect. As the team worked through his offseason training regimen, he noticed an emerging star in junior wide receiver Agaese Tago.

“;Talent-wise, he's amazing,”; said Silva of Tago in what proved to be a spot-on preseason assessment. “;He has amazing speed, agility and the ability to run routes. He can make things happen when he catches and runs.”;

Tago has done just that, carrying the Rough Rider offense with 341 yards and five touchdowns on 21 catches through five Oahu Interscholastic Association Red Conference East Division contests.

More importantly, however, Tago has improved his attitude. Silva credits Tago for changing his behavior after a rough start to the season which saw the receiver commit unsportsmanlike fouls in games against Damien and Kahuku. While the coach is the last one to make excuses for Tago, he empathizes with the player who grew up just mauka of Queen's Hospital in a predominantly low-income area below Punchbowl. Silva grew up in Kalihi's Kuhio Park Terrace (KPT) housing project.

“;Coming out of KPT, we had all these (similar) types of people,”; Silva said. “;You don't realize it until you get out of it. We've got to remember that these are kids, and sometimes it takes longer for some to grow up.

“;Like any kid that comes out of a rough area, there's a certain stigma, and you try to act a certain way to fit in. It doesn't mean you're a bad person, but Ese has done a good job of getting over that image.”;

After paying his dues for the penalties with extra work in practice, Tago refocused on leading his team through a regular-season schedule laden with perennial powers.

“;Looking back at how I made my stupid fouls, it could have meant the difference in games, it could have meant us not winning,”; said Tago. “;I don't know if other people like guys on the JV look up to me, but if they do, I want to be an example. You don't have to showboat. You just have to play the game to show who you are.”;

After a limited role in two non-conference games with Aiea and Damien due to an injured ankle, Tago erupted for 106 yards and two touchdowns as Roosevelt nearly knocked off Farrington, falling 20-17 in the OIA Red East opener.

In the two games following the near upset of the Governors, Tago continued to dominate. He racked up 86 yards and a score in a 31-12 loss to top-ranked Kahuku and spurred his team's 36-21 upset of Castle with two touchdowns and 133 yards on eight grabs.

However, opponents finally adjusted, consistently double-teaming him. In the Rough Riders' two recent clashes with league foes Kaimuki and Kailua, Tago was held to 22 yards on four receptions in a heartbreaking 17-16 overtime defeat to the Bulldogs, and a mere two catches for negative six yards as the Surfriders waxed Roosevelt 42-10.

“;Since they've been doing that, I've hardly touched the ball, and our QB has to scramble all over the place,”; Tago says of the defensive pressure. “;Everybody was expecting us to do well this year, and I thought we'd do better, but everything happens for a reason. We knew the Kaimuki (loss) was a big mistake because it meant a lot for us making the playoffs. Now we have to wait.”;

The Rough Riders' 1-4 mark in the OIA Red East leaves the squad stuck in last place, and, with Friday's season finale against McKinley remaining, out of playoff contention. But, considering the team's youth — its receiving corps is composed of juniors led by Tago — Silva has a positive foundation on which to build.

“;Winning will take care of itself as long as we take care of the little things,”; Silva said. “;It's been a very humbling experience.”;

The disappointing season record has also motivated Tago to again participate in track and field to improve his speed and breathing control (which he says improves stamina late in games). With his senior season on the horizon, Tago, a history buff, will continue working hard in hopes of following some of his local idols including Punahou alumni Manti Te'o, Dalton Hilliard and Robbie Toma to the collegiate level.