[ WARRIOR FOOTBALL ]
Warriors new to
Veterans will be asked to help
new players through the things
that make road games tough
Nearly one third of the Hawaii football team's travel squad is in the midst of a brand-new experience. This is the first road trip as Warriors for 19 of the 60 players who were scheduled to arrive in Houston this morning for a game at Rice on Saturday.
Coach June Jones said it might be the biggest number of first-time Road Warriors in his six years at UH.
"I don't know, I would have to go back and check. But I know we have more freshman going than we've probably ever had," Jones said after yesterday's final home practice.
At least one player, true freshman defensive tackle Keala Watson, had never been to the mainland before today. He said yesterday he was too busy to be nervous or overly excited, even with an eight-hour flight -- a good chunk of it over the Pacific Ocean -- and a couple of nights in a hotel in a big city in his immediate future. Oh, and his first Western Athletic Conference game, too.
"Coach reminded us this isn't a vacation," said Watson, one of six defensive linemen making his first road trip. "It's our job to focus on the game. He told us study our plays, don't waste time."
It won't be all X's and O's. There will certainly be a lot of Z's on the Warriors' direct, overnight commercial flight, and each seat has its own entertainment center that includes several movies and other programs, as well as games like chess and blackjack.
Freshmen aren't the only rookies. Junior defensive end Justin Faimealelei is on his first road trip.
"The only time I went on a plane for a game was high school playoffs," the Kaimuki graduate said. "I've never been to Texas and I've never been on a road trip to the mainland. I went to Fresno City College for two weeks, but I didn't stick around. We just have to step it up and not be nervous. We just have to relax and get our heads into the game."
Redshirt freshman defensive end Karl Noa has actually made a longer voyage to play football.
"When I was in eighth grade I played for the Waianae Tigers. We won the states in Pop Warner and went to Florida to play. That's my only other time off the rock," he said. "This is a big step for me."
Veteran players don't give the rookies too much advice on what to bring with them, with one major exception.
"I told Clarence (freshman defensive tackle Tuioti-Mariner) and Keala to bring some snacks for me, and it better be the specific item that I want," said senior defensive tackle Lui Fuga, who later reminded Watson that he wanted dinner from Burger King, then laughed.
"The best thing they can do is keep their cool and be focused. Don't get too excited or overwhelmed. Just take it one step at a time and focus," Fuga said.
The Warriors are 10-11 (10-8 in conference) on the road under Jones. UH had lost the previous 15 in a row away from the islands before his arrival in 1999.
"We emphasize it's a business trip," he said. "We constantly remind them they're representing themselves, me, the school, the state, everyone."
Kafentzis, the next generation: When you're defending against the Rice wishbone, you want as many smart, physical run-stoppers as you can get. Sounds like a job for a Kafentzis.
Junior safety Landon Kafentzis, a transfer from Arizona and Pima Junior College, hopes to live up to the legacy of his father, Mark, and four uncles who were all hard hitters for UH.
He has climbed up the depth chart to No. 2 at strong safety for this game.
"I feel confident. I've been spending a lot of time in my playbook, studying tape. I feel ready to go," Kafentzis said. "I have some experience with (the wishbone). They're real good with the fundamentals. But the thing is, you've got to play football. Whether it's a passing team or a running team, you've got to play football. And I'm looking forward to it because it's physical football, a lot of hitting, and that's what I like to do."
Kafentzis made his UH debut on special teams in the season-opening loss to Florida Atlantic.
Ayat update: Kicker Justin Ayat looked good yesterday, converting from 32 and 42 yards and missing a few feet to the right (with plenty of distance to spare) from 52.
Ayat, a senior who is the UH program's second-leading all-time scorer, was slowed through most of preseason camp with a groin injury.
Brother knows best: Freshman linebacker C.J. Allen-Jones said a recruiting Web site report that his brother, Aberdeen High School (Md.) linebacker Cam Stokes, had committed to Hawaii is probably premature.
"I know he's considering coming here," said Allen-Jones, whose name was formerly Carl Stokes. "But I'm not sure if he was offered a scholarship by Hawaii yet."
Allen-Jones said his brother is also being recruited by Michigan, Maryland, Virginia, Syracuse and North Carolina.
Cam Stokes was second-team all-league last year. The Web site lists his fastest 40-yard dash at 4.8.
"He's faster than that. From what I heard, he runs a 4.6," Allen-Jones said.
Scout's honor: Hawaii quarterback Brandon Satcher isn't exactly where he wants to be, but he certainly isn't complaining.
The true freshman from North Augusta, S.C., knew it would probably be a while before he'd get a shot at playing time when he committed to the Warriors. But he said he's enjoying his current role of helping the UH defense prepare for Rice's wishbone offense.
"I came here willing to do whatever Coach Jones wanted me to do," Satcher said. "Our scout offense takes a lot of pride in it. We try to set up our defense the best we can for the team we're playing."
Satcher, perhaps the best all-around athlete of the Warriors QBs, was a natural for the job to simulate Rice's Greg Henderson. In fact, the Owls went after Satcher.
"They recruited me pretty hard, but Rice is a pretty tough school. I didn't quite make it into Rice," he said. "I'm happy here, though. I love Hawaii."
Linebacker Ikaika Curnan said Satcher is helping the defense prepare for one of its sternest tests of the season.
"He's great, good movement, running hard. The whole (scout) offense is doing a really good job for us. Getting after us, blocking us," Curnan said. "It's going to make the game easier for us."
Said Jones: "He can run and he's a good passer. He's giving us a great look on the scout team, simulating what they do."