Moanalua madness


POSTED: Sunday, October 18, 2009

It was one of the biggest crowds to see a prep football game this season.

At Moanalua, nearly 5,000 fans filed in to watch Na Menehune and Aiea battle for first place in the Oahu Interscholastic Association White Conference.

They—including each school's band—saw Moanalua go unbeaten in regular-season play for the first time. Moanalua's 31-14 win on Friday night wasn't the only highlight.

The evening began with a remarkable finish to the junior varsity game, when an astounding 36-yard field goal by Nalea Trujillo with no time remaining gave Moanalua a 17-14 win. Trujillo, a 5-foot-3, 110-pound freshman, hadn't made a field goal all season, but drilled the kick flawlessly with another 7 or 8 yards to spare.

“;That was nerve-wracking,”; she said of the final play, which began only after a Moanalua timeout and two more timeouts called by Aiea.

Maybe that gave the varsity squad a boost, but it probably works the other way around. Moanalua's had a solid kicking game for years.

“;I've had six straight years of great kickers,”; coach Arnold Martinez said. “;We had the Watanabes, Landon and Justin.”;











Current varsity kicker Matt Blakeley has continued the stellar tradition, kicking a 26-yard field goal and sending one kickoff to the end zone for a touchback on Friday. All-around standout Rich Villasenor bombed a 63-yard punt.

Aiea's run-and-shoot offense had its opportunities in the first half. Na Alii's average starting point for five possessions was their 39-yard line. In the second half, Moanalua's ground game limited Aiea to just three possessions—with an average starting point of its own 25-yard line—and Na Alii never seriously threatened.

Aiea missed defensive tackle Lawrence Lagafuaina, but its normally productive offense managed just one touchdown. Villasenor (5-10, 230) covered practically the entire field, a big part of Moanalua's gang-tackling mentality. Xavier Peterson (6-0, 200) had six solo tackles, mostly in the open field, and Jordan Tanioka was bullish in the trenches with seven tackles.

At 5-9, Tanioka uses his leverage, strength and quickness well.

“;He might be the strongest kid I've had in the program,”; Martinez said of Tanioka, who recorded 1,575 pounds in the team's “;liftoff”; of power clean, dead lift, bench press and squat. “;He's got a great base and strong legs. His lower-core strength is unbelievable.”;

; For Moanalua, an unbeaten regular season is almost as unbelievable. A win over Kalaheo on Friday would clinch a state berth. It isn't too much to expect even against a tough Mustangs program; Moanalua battled Mililani to a 16-3 loss in nonconference play. Still, Martinez isn't convinced that moving up to the Division I Red Conference is necessary.

“;We would definitely compete there,”; he said. “;But our problem is our cycle. When we had 'Q' (Quinton Tang) and Stan (Leti), out of 33 kids, we had 22 seniors. Most of the big studs played with us for three years. Then, the next year, we got to Red, we're pretty competitive. We're right in every game, but we don't have the numbers and the young kids are forced to play Farrington and Kahuku coming right out of JV.”;

The program has become a cornerstone on campus. Friday's game drew the second-largest audience of the season; an early game with Pearl City attracted 5,000, Martinez said.

This year's team has 60 players, and the JV crop coming up next season just might include a perky, but poised field-goal kicker who knows how to win a game or two.