By Rodney S. Yap
Maui Interscholastic League recruits Keelan Ewaliko and Jordan Hoiem were introduced to the University of Hawaii football team by Warrior head coach Norm Chow following Saturday’s Maui practice at War Memorial Stadium.
“These guys are from Maui who we are trying to recruit and could become your teammates,” Chow told the team huddled in front of him. “Keelan is a quarterback from right here at Baldwin. And here is the future, only a sophomore from Baldwin, he could be a Warrior in two years so let’s give it up for Jordan.”
The players and coaches clapped and cheered for Ewaliko and Hoiem, who were invited to attend practice by Chow and given full access to the two-hour session by the team’s recruiting coordinator Philip Rauscher.
“You guys can go anywhere on the field you like, just don’t get in the way,” Rauscher told the Baldwin duo.
Ewaliko stood just outside the Warriors’ offensive huddle during one-on-one’s and later during 11-on-11. During breaks in practice Ewaliko talked to coaches about the pro-style offense and the multiple formations — from double tight end to an empty-set backfield.
Hoiem, who plays outside linebacker, met Chow an hour before the players took the field and was introduced to the entire staff. Rauscher, who coaches tight ends, liked Hoiem’s 6-foot, 4-inch frame, pitching him the offensive position as an option.
Saturday was Maui’s chance to connect with the new-look Warrior football program under Chow. As it turned out, it didn’t take long for Mauians to embrace that connection as the Hawaii players performed a ha’a before stepping onto the War Memorial Stadium field.
The chant, led by linebacker Kamalani Alo, fueled the 1,200 fans in attendance and confirmed Chow’s favorable position on the pre-game ritual.
Once on the field, the music kicked in and did not stop until practice was over two hours later.
Hawaii’s longtime equipment manager Al Ginoza, who grew up on Maui and played basketball at Baldwin, has seen the positive change in player’s attitudes and the increasing intensity at practice. Ginoza said don’t be fooled by Chow’s age, the 65-year-old has the energy of a teenager and is in his Manoa office every morning while most of the state is still asleep.
Several times during practice, coaches looked up to the pressbox, requesting to raise the volume on the music. Hawaii beat writer Stephen Tsai of the Honolulu Star Advertiser said the team blew out a pair of speakers last week on Oahu. Ginoza said Chow likes the music loud because it sets the tempo of practice and serves as a distraction.
“That distraction forces the players to focus,” Ginoza added.
After warm ups and stretching, players lined up for the “Oklahoma drill,” a one-on-one challenge pitting players of similar size against each other in a restricted area. Waylon Lolotai defeated Alema Tachibana in one battle, while running back Will Gregory upset safety Leroy Lutu in a later battle.
Other highlights included:
- No. 1 quarterback David Graves (9) threw a 60-yard pass to Cecil Doe for a touchdown.
- No. 2 quarterback Jeremy Higgins hit Miah Ostrowski (31 yards) and Duke Bukoski (20 yards) for a pair of completions.
- Charles Clay knocked down a pass play on a blitz from his safety position.
- Dylan McCagg intercepted Higgins in the flat.
- Australian punter Alex Dunnachie boomed a 70-yard punt.
Two hours later, the non-stop music provided by UH graduate assistant Tuika Tufaga finally fades out.
The team huddles near the south end zone for a coaches’ recap.
“I want the locker room spotless when we leave,” Chow tells the team. “The other day some of you left your tape on the field. Who is suppose to pick it up. Is your mom or dad going to come and pick it up for you. Put it where it belongs. And when I talk I don’t want anybody taking off tape.”
In closing, Chow says, “It was ok today guys, but we still have to get better. You guys worked hard, I want you to let the crowd know how much you appreciate them coming out here on a Saturday to watch you guys. You guys did a nice job today. Let’s get home safely, no nonsense, dress properly and represent us.”
In other practice notes:
- Tufaga, a former Warrior defensive tackle, has signed one-year contract to play with the Sagamihara Rise of the X-League, Japan’s professional football association. He leaves this summer. Tufaga said he records all the music the team needs on his iphone and welcomes suggestions from the players.
- Lahainaluna defensive tackle Feleti Taufa received a walk-on invitation from Coach Chow. The invite is for summer camp in August. Taufa said he is strongly considering the offer. Otherwise, “I will playing junior college football in Utah, at Snow Junior College.”
- The MIL’s most prolific place-kicker Ceejay Santos plans to walk-on at UH after he sits out next season, the penalty for leaving Weber State where he was on scholarship. Santos returned to Maui from Utah Saturday morning. He said school ended on Friday and he showed up at War Memorial Stadium to talk to Chow. ”I really wasn’t happy there . . . my first choice was Hawaii from the beginning, so I’m happy I’ll get another chance.”
- UH defensive coordinator Thom Kaumeyer was reunited with former Baldwin (2004) standout Kawika Kahui, who played defensive end for Kaumeyer at San Diego State. Kaumeyer coached the Aztecs from 2002 to 2006.
- Current and former MIL football coaches were on the sidelines, including Kevin O’Brien, Rodney Figueroa, David Nesmith, and JW Kenton.