Hawaii Grown Report

Former Kahuku running back Mulivai Pula got past Saint Louis' Paula Latu during the state championship game Nov. 30, 2001. Pula ended up at the College of the Sequoias.

Pula runs through California

Mulivai Pula is alive and running over tacklers again.

Pula was a headline high school football player in 2001, when his 20th touchdown was an 81-yard run that helped Kahuku High School beat Saint Louis 21-14 for the Hawaii state championship.

Pula was named state offensive player of the year and he signed a letter of intent to attend Brigham Young University.

Then he vanished from the headlines.

What has happened to Pula since happens to many high school football stars. He did not qualify academically to play in the NCAA and was redirected to a junior college.

Pula's case is more nomadic than most. Since January, he attended Dixie College in Utah for part of a semester, declared he would attend College of the Canyons in California but changed his mind, took a serious look at Palomar in California, and finally enrolled last month at College of the Sequoias in Visalia, Calif.

After his first three games, Pula leads California's 72 community college football teams in rushing average with 10.5 yards per carry.

His numbers include 156- and 139-yard games (13.4 yards per carry) and one where he was stuffed for zero net yards on six carries by Yuba.

"Playing again is the most fun," said Pula, whose weight is up from 215 in high school to 238 pounds. "The game is a lot faster here and you have to make adjustments to protect yourself." Practicing, he says, still is not fun.

Pula's case is more dramatic than most, but by no means unique.

There are well over 100 former Hawaii high school athletes on community college football teams in California -- more than any other college sport in any other state, including Hawaii. (Hawaii's community colleges do not have intercollegiate sports.)

Most of them either were not offered athletic scholarships by an NCAA or NAIA college or did not qualify academically to play. And for most of them, this is the last time they will play organized football.

But for a few, it is a two-year detour on the way to a college degree, paid for by their football skills.

"Community college provides a second chance for a lot of kids," said Orange Coast coach Mike Taylor. He has 15 players from Hawaii. Jesse Mahelona (Kealakehe '01) was a preseason All-American, and although he is probably out for the season with a broken foot, colleges like Tennessee and Oklahoma are still courting him, Taylor said.

Roger Kelly, Pula's coach at Sequoias, says the players who come to community colleges "usually are deficient in grades. They have to learn to study."

"We have tutors, mandatory study hall, they must spend an hour a day in the library," Kelly said. "We do a lot of things to help them. If they buy into that, most young men do pretty good."

The players from Hawaii are especially challenged, Kelly said. California community colleges do not give athletic scholarships and "they have to pay out-of-state tuition ($1,400) and their room and board. It's not an easy thing the first year, until they establish residency," Kelly said.

"Some of them can qualify for federal aid and a work-study job. We find jobs in the community for others.

"The big thing we found out about players from Hawaii," Kelly said, "is that they are so loyal. If you treat them right, they become your best recruiters."

Pula said it was a former Kahuku teammate, strong safety Bryson Au, who convinced him to attend Sequoias. Pula and Au share an apartment with another Kahuku alum and Sequoias starting center Lyons Pearl.

In all, seven of the 14 Hawaii players at Sequoias are starters.

While Pula leads the state in yards per carry, two of his former teammates and another Division I non-qualifier from Kailua High School are blocking for the state leader in rushing yards per game.

Right tackle Pat So'oalo (Kailua '03), left guard Kalavi Blanchard (Kahuku '02) and right guard Palauni MaSun (Kahuku '03) are offensive starters at Fresno City College, a proud program with a regular-season record of 41-3 the past five years.

They help open the holes for Nathan Wright, who has averaged 157.8 yards per game.

"They are really good players," coach Tony Caviglia said.

Team publicist Woody Wilk added, "Our offensive line is as big as Fresno State's."

So'oala signed with Oregon last November and Blanchard signed with Hawaii in 2001, but neither qualified academically.

Caviglia points to alums from Hawaii who have made it from his team onto Division I rosters, such as Rocky Faga (UH), Iokepa "Jacob" Leota (Akron), Loa Emmsley (Boise State) and David Tautofi (UCLA).

Fresno, Northern California runner-up last season, sent 33 players to four-year colleges this year.

"We get them going academically," Caviglia said.

For submissions: Email: with name, high school, college and sport; or Fax: 236-4195. Phone: 236-3654 or toll free 1-888-236-3654.


Hawaii's junior college
football players

These are the football players from Hawaii at four selected California community colleges this season. There are many more at other schools. The starters are in bold-face type:


OG Kalavi Blanchard (Kahuku '02)
LB Jeremiah "Maia" Leota (Waipahu '02)
OG Palani MaSun (Kahuku '03) of Laie
OL Mike Nguyen (McKinley)
NG Benito Reyes (Farrington '01)
OT Pat So'oalo (Kailua '03)
DL Tafa Samuela (Waipahu '02)
LB Ta'amilo Ta'amilo (Kailua '01)
LB Chris Williams (McKinley '02)
Gray shirts (taking fewer than 12 units)
DB Jonah Lakatani (Saint Louis '03 of Nanakuli)
OL Steve Lightsy (Kahuku '03)

Huntington Beach

K Ha'a (Burton) Bento (Saint Louis '01)
LB Richard Chung (Kaiser '03)
FS Teranna Fiaseu (Saint Louis '00 of Waipahu)
FB Kawika Kawabata (Lahainaluna)
WR Ryan Leong (Pac-Five/Mid-Pacific '03 of Manoa)
TE Brandyn McCall (Pac-Five/Mid-Pacific '03 of Kailua)
CB Kenoche Mostella (McKinley)
WR Waikaloa Noa (Kaiser '03)
WR Jordan Paragosa (Damien)
DL Dennis "Moku" Pilialoha (Pac-Five/Lanakila Baptist '03)
DL Suluata Siva Savini (Pac-Five/Lanakila Baptist '03)

Costa Mesa, Calif.

LB Dallas DeFries (Kamehameha '01 of Kailua)
QB Kelika Higa (Saint Louis '01 )
WR Justin Humalon (Saint Louis '02 of Kaneohe)
WR Nainoa Kuna (Punahou '02 of Kahala)
SS Una Latu (Saint Louis '00)
TE Kaimana Lee (Konawaena '01)
DE Charles Luna (Kalaheo '03)
DL Jesse Mahelona (Kealakehe '01)
DL Ikaika Medrano (Kamehameha '01 of Kaneohe)
DB Trevor Meyers (Kamehameha '01 of Waimanalo)
OT Hoku Van Den Handel (Kalani '03)
WR Jon Villanueva (Kamehameha '01 of Pearl City)
Red shirt (injured)
RB Ekahi-Kai Sallas (Kaiser '03)
Gray shirts (taking less than 12 units)
OL Jesse Glover (Kaiser '03)
LB Casey Kaiwi (Kealakehe '03)

Visalia, Calif.

SS Bryson Au (Kahuku '01)
LS, LB Eddie Campbell (Kailua '03)
DB Sol Cuban (Kailua '03)
LB James Fisher (Ka'u, from Pahala)
WR David Kaihenui (Kaiua '03)
OT Al Kauahi (Kailua '03)
OG Joseph Napeahi (Kahuku '03)
C Lyons Pearl (Kahuku '02)
RB Mulivai Pula (Kahuku '02)
OG Willie Salakielu (Kailua '03)
DL A.J. Smith (Kahuku '01)
OT Raymond Taumololo (Kaimuki '03)
DE Timote Tolutau (Kahuku '03)
DE Cole Wilkins (Kahuku '03)

For more information on these players, including comments by their coaches, go to


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