[ HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL ]
GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Roland Mason, a 5-foot-9, 175 pound senior, can play strong safety, cornerback, free safety and outside linebacker for the Kapolei Hurricanes.
Roland Mason has emerged
to help the Kapolei Hurricanes
cut a path through the OIA
Kapolei's Roland Mason looks through bars only when he dons his football helmet for practices and games.
His father, Roland K. Jose, is behind bars every day. He's been in and out of prison since Mason was a young boy.
"He got to see me play when I was on the JV team, but he's never seen me play on the varsity and I would very much like him to see a game," Mason said without flinching.
The senior defensive back doesn't make a habit of concealing the circumstances of what has been a tough life.
According to Mason, who took his mom's last name, his dad is in prison now for violating probation on a gun charge.
"He could be out in a matter of months or a few weeks," he said. "I asked him and he said it's OK that this information goes in the newspaper.
"When he went in last time, I felt like my life was going downhill. If it wasn't for football, and coach (Darren) Hernandez, I don't know where I'd be."
Mason is one of the Hurricanes' many standout players --one that has somehow avoided notoriety in the media.
"He's one of the fastest guys on the team," Hernandez said.
"In our strength and conditioning drills, he charts right up there in all of them. He's done a 4.5 in the 40 and he has a really good vertical jump. He's physically tough and he's got all the measurables except height and weight."
At 5-foot-9, 175 pounds, Mason's best position is strong safety, according to Hernandez, but he can also play cornerback, free safety and outside linebacker.
Kapolei (8-0, 7-0) clinched the Oahu Interscholastic Association White Conference title with a victory over Radford last weekend and is preparing for a Nov. 1 first-round playoff game against Kaiser.
"We want to look back and be able to remember this season for being undefeated at the end," Mason said. "We'll already be able to look back and remember how much fun we've had playing together and being together."
He'll do whatever it takes for the chance to play football in college.
"I'll be taking the SATs and I've been getting good grades," he said. "I'd like to go to UH or maybe one of the schools in California."
The Warriors have shown an interest in him and he's been to every home game so far this year.
Hernandez places Mason in the Hyrum Peters mold --a playmaker on defense.
"He's had a few feelers from colleges here and there," Hernandez said. "But I think he's truly flying under the radar because of his size. He's definitely a Division I prospect. But Hyrum was a walk-on at UH and so was Nate Jackson.
"He's a really good kid, even-keeled and a positive influence on everybody. He gets the job done, and because of the hardships that he's had to deal with, it makes him all the better and stronger for it."
Mason will never forget the 75-yard interception return he had a few weeks ago in a victory over Kalaheo.
"I was backpedaling when the receivers crossed routes and then I broke to the flat when the quarterback threw it," he said. "I picked it off and went straight down the sidelines. My teammates told me nobody got near me, but I never looked back."
Hernandez said Mason could be one of the team's top running backs if they needed him to play there. But the coach prefers the defensive side of the ball for Mason, who is the team's leading tackler.
One of Mason's shining moments came when he was given the task of covering Aiea's dangerous slotback Ben Ah Mook Sang in an important conference game.
"We have a lot of respect for what Ah Mook Sang can do," Hernandez said.
"He got his yards and one late TD, but Roland did a really good job against him, holding him down."
The path is clear-cut for Mason and the Hurricanes, who have the community of Kapolei hungry for a title.
"We want to win the White playoffs and the Division II state championship," Mason said. "We all feel we should be in Division I because we really think this is our season to make a statement. But it doesn't matter what division we're in because we still have to go out and beat a lot of very good teams."
Kapolei is considered one of the favorites to make it to the inaugural Division II state tournament, but the path isn't easy.
Roland Mason is the kind of person who thrives when things aren't so easy, so he's relishing his team's latest challenge and preparing to attack it all-out.
But one can only wonder just how amped he'll be if his dad gets out of prison in time to watch the title chase.