Three Top Local Players Highlight Warriors’ 2012 Recruiting Class

February 1, 2012, 4:59 PM HST · Updated February 1, 5:02 PM
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SLakalaka-action

Punahou School running back Steven Lakalaka was one of three top local recruits to sign with Hawaii today. Photo by Eugene Tanner / ScoringLive.

By Rodney S. Yap

Despite only having 39 days to recruit, University of Hawai’i head football coach Norm Chow managed to grab three of the state’s top high school players as part of the Warriors’ 2012 recruiting class.

Chow announced today the 18 high school and junior college prospects at a press conference at the Stan Sheriff Center’s Ed Wong Hospitality Room. Chow and his inaugural coaching staff secured commitments from five players who have already enrolled during the spring semester as mid-year transfers or enrollees and 13 signed their National Letters of Intent to join the Warriors in the fall. In all, 14 are high school seniors, three are from junior colleges, and one Division I transfer.

Chow finished assembling his coaching staff in mid-January and had only 12 official recruiting days with a full staff in place.

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“I think for the limited amount of time we had, our coaches did a terrific job,” Chow said. “We feel real good about it but I think we have to temper our enthusiasm by understanding that maybe in three years, this group will be judged. But for the most part we really feel good about what happened and we have some nice players, some highlight-type recruits that we feel awfully good about.”

Highlighting the class are three of the state’s top prospects – linebacker Benson Fonua (Kahuku HS), running back Steven Lakalaka (Punahou School), and offensive lineman Kiha Sai (Kamehameha Schools-Kapalama). Fonua was the state’s defensive player of the year this past season while Siha was rated as the No. 3 recruit in the state and Lakalaka was picked as the fifth-best prospect.

“Historically over the years a lot of the top local players leave and we’re going to have to fight that,” Chow said. “We fought a pretty good fight this time around and we feel like we made some progress (with this group) but we’re going to have a better jump on it (in future years).”

The Warriors beat out several big name FBS teams among them defensive lineman Dejon Allen of Dominguez High School in California, who picked UH over Arizona State, offensive tackle Leo Koloamatangi of Sacred Heart Prep in California, who turned down Purdue, defensive back Ronald Fields of the College of San Mateo, who was recruited heavily by Washington, and Lakalaka, who picked the Warriors over UCLA.

Among the signees, three are tight ends, a position UH will now utilize with the implementation of Chow’s pro-style offense. Clark Evans, of Cerritos College, was a highly decorated quarterback from Los Alamitos High School who moved to tight end at Cerritos. Harold Moleni, who initially signed with Utah State out of high school, comes to UH after serving a two-year church mission. Ethan Watanabe was an all-district player from Brennan High School in San Antonio, Texas, whose father was a standout player at Nanakuli High School on O’ahu.

Also among the class are a pair of quarterbacks – Ikaika Woolsey of Salinas High School in California and Taylor Graham, a transfer from Ohio State, who must sit out the 2012 season. Both are already enrolled in school for the spring semester. John Ursa, a three-year starting quarterback at Cedar High School in Utah, was ranked among the top prospects in the state and will switch to receiver when he joins the Warriors in the fall.

Among the team’s needs is on the offensive and defensive line. In addition to Allen, Sai and Koloamatangi, the Warriors picked up 300-pounders Gus Lavaka, a defensive lineman out of Kearns High School in Utah and Mike Millovale, a tackle from Hartnell College in California. Offensive lineman Ben Clarke of Chatfield High School in Littleton, Colo., is already enrolled in school.

The Warriors grabbed a trio of linebackers in Fonua, Jerrol Garcia-Williams of Palo Verde High School in Las Vegas, Nev., and mid-year enrollee Lancelot Williams, of Farrington High School in Honolulu.

Three of the signees are sons of former NFL players. Cornerback Anthony Pierce of Mission Viejo High School is California, is the son of former New York Giant linebacker Antonio Pierce, Graham’s father Kent played in the league for 11 seasons with the Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers, and Garcia-Williams’ father Jerrol Williams is a former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker. In addition, Watanabe’s uncle is Kansas City Chiefs tight end Tony Moeaki.

Below are the respective bios on each signee as provided by the UH Athletics:

Dejon Allen | Defensive Line | 6-2 | 265 | Freshman | Compton, CA (Dominguez HS)

Will graduate this spring from Dominguez High School in California…played on both the offensive and defensive lines…rated the 36th-best offensive guard nationally by Rivals.com…selected 49th-best offensive guard by Scout.com…picked as the 40th-best offensive guard and No. 86 prospect in the state of California by 247sports.com…rated as one of the Top 50 prospects in the south Los Angeles County for the class of 2012 by ESPNU…selected honorable mention Press-Telegram Football Dream Team…named to Cal-Hi Sports Preseason all-South Bay/Long Beach first team…named a Top 25 guard/center nationally by MaxPreps…as a junior, named all-San Gabriel Valley League first team.

Ben Clarke | Offensive Line | 6-3 | 275 | Freshman | Littleton, CO (Chatfield HS)

Mid-year enrollee…a 2011 graduate of Chatfield High School in Littleton, Colo…named to 5A West Metro all-league first team as a senior…earned second-team Big 8 all-league as a junior…an academic all-state selection…as a sophomore, named honorable mention all-Big 8 League…also was a member of the track and field team, competing in the shot put and discus.

Clark Evans | Tight End | 6-3 | 230 | Junior | Los Alamitos, CA (Cerritos College)

Mid-year transfer…played his one season at Cerritos College, helping the Falcons capture their second straight Northern Conference championships and appearance in the Southern California championship game…finished the season with 31 receptions for 444 yards (14.3 avg) and a team-high nine touchdowns…named first team CCCFCA All-American and first team Region IV All-California team…rated the No. 4 tight end nationally and 34th-best junior college recruit in California by 247sports.com…attended the University of Colorado as a freshman in 2009…was a reserve quarterback for the Buffaloes…a 2009 graduate of Los Alamitos High School in California…earned All-America honors from PrepStar and All-Far West Region from SuperPrep, where he is also listed as the No. 62 player from the Far West Region and was the No. 52 player from California (the No. 8 quarterback on that list)…one of eight quarterbacks selected to Tacoma News-Tribune’s Western 100 list…ranked the No. 28 quarterback by Scout.com and No. 31 quarterback by ESPN… Rivals.com listed his as the No. 25 dual-threat quarterback and the No. 81 prospect from California coming in as the No. 8 quarterback on that list…Orange County Register listed him as the No. 3 recruit in Orange County…named Sunset League Most Valuable Player as a senior and led team to the league championship…named first team all-league and third team all-state honors from Cal-Hi Sports as a senior…completed 146-of-254 passes for 2,173 yards and 25 touchdowns with 10 interceptions…on the ground, carried the ball 167 times for 840 yards (5.5 per rush) and 12 touchdowns…as a junior, was the league’s Offensive MVP and named to the All-CIF after throwing for over 2,500 yards and 22 touchdowns, with over 1,000 yards on the ground with 15 more scores… also earned first team all-league honors as a sophomore when he became just the fifth underclassmen to start at quarterback at Los Alamitos in the last 30 years…threw for over 2,000 yards and 19 touchdowns…compiled a 22-10 record as a starting quarterback…also lettered three times on the basketball team…as a senior, named team MVP and earned first team all-league honors…played his freshman season on the varsity team at Santa Margarita High School.

Ronald Fields | Defensive Back | 6-2 | 180 | Junior | Sacramento, CA (College of San Mateo)

Attended the College of San Mateo for two years…as a sophomore, finished with two interceptions and seven pass breakups…also recovered one fumble which he returned for a touchdown and posted 35 total tackles…averaged 28.7 yards on nine kickoff returns and 5.3 yards on seven punt returns…rated the 50th top junior college recruit in California according to 247sports.com and the 17th best cornerback in the country…as a freshman, led the team with four interceptions and 12 passes defended…also had 36 total tackles…earned first team all-NORCAL honors…a 2010 graduate of Grant High School in Sacramento, Calif…as a senior recorded 35 tackles and eight interceptions…also had 13 passes defended and one fumble recovery…scored three touchdowns on a reception, punt return and fumble return.

Benetton Fonua | Linebacker | 6-1 | 220 | Freshman | Kahuku, O’ahu (Kahuku HS)

Will graduate this spring from Kahuku High School on the North Shore of O’ahu…named the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Division I State Defensive Player of the Year…also named to USA Today’s All-USA second team…rated the No. 11 recruit in the state of Hawai’i by 247sports.com…helped Kahuku win its first Division I state championship since 2006…anchored the defense which allowed just 46 rushing yards and 6.8 points per game…also named first team all-state and first team all-OIA Red East…competed in the H.U.B. Goodwill Senior Bowl…as a junior, was named first team all-OIA Red East and honorable mention all-state.

Jerrol Garcia-Williams | Linebacker | 6-3 | 200 | Freshman | Las Vegas, NV (Palo Verde HS)

Will graduate this spring from Palo Verde High School in Las Vegas, Nev…selected as the Northwest Division’s Defensive Player of the Year and first-team all-state… mentioned among the “Other Top Players” in the all-Nevada football team selected by espn.com…also named to Nevada’s All-State Prospect Team by Rivals.com…led Palo Verde to the Sunset Region championship game…finished with 84 tackles, two interceptions, seven sacks, and one forced fumble…also saw time at tight end and hauled in seven receptions for 148 yards and one touchdown…father is former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Jerrol Williams.

Taylor Graham | Quarterback | 6-4 | 230 | Junior | Wheaton, IL (Ohio State)

Mid-year transfer…must sit out the 2012 season…attended Ohio State for two years…back-up quarterback in 2011…redshirted in 2010…a 2010 graduate of Wheaton North High School in Illinois…played in parts of five games during his senior season due to a knee injury…threw for 430 yards and two touchdowns…ranked as the No. 14 quarterback nationally according to Rivals.com…played five games during his junior season, which was cut short by an ankle injury…passed for 950 yards and six touchdowns…also lettered in baseball and basketball…member of the National Honor Society…picked Ohio State over UCLA, Duke, Wisconsin, Arkansas, and Iowa…father Kent played 11 seasons in the NFL and was a starting quarterback for the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers.

Leo Koloamatangi | Offensive Line | 6-5 | 260 | Freshman | Atherton, CA (Sacred Heart Prep)

Will graduate this spring from Sacred Heart Prep in Atherton, Calif…played both the offensive and defensive line…on defense, finished with 40 total tackles and one sack as a senior…on offense, selected to Cal-Hi Sports all-state Small Schools first team and MaxPreps Division III all-state first team…picked to the Daily News all-state second team…named all-San Mateo County first team and all-Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division first team…ranked No. 19 in Oakland Tribune’s Cream of the Crop list of the Top 20 athletes in the Bay Area…also competed in track and field and was named first-team all-league in 2011.

Steven Lakalaka | Running Back | 5-10 | 225 | Freshman | Honolulu, HI (Punahou School)

Will graduate this spring from Punahou School in Honolulu, O’ahu…selected as the Gatorade Hawai’i Football Player of the Year…rated as the No. 3 recruit in the state of Hawai’i and 36th-best running back nationally by Rivals.com…picked as the No. 5 prospect in the state and No. 70 running back nationally by 247sports.com…rushed for 1,154 yards and 12 touchdowns on 218 carries as a senior, leading the Buffanblu to the HHSAA Division I state championship game…named to Honolulu Star-Advertiser first-team all-state as a junior and senior…a two-time first-team all-ILH pick and ILH Offensive Player of the Year in 2011…selected to all-Hawai’i football team by espn.com…rushed for more than 100-yards four times including a season-high 162 yards in a win over ‘Iolani…participated in the H.U.B. Goodwill Senior Bowl all-star game…as a junior rushed for 771 yards on 152 carries and four touchdowns and caught 16 passes for 141 yards and a score…selected to Honolulu Star-Advertiser all-state third team…named to all-ILH second team as a sophomore…a two-sport athlete who also competes in basketball.

Gus Lavaka | Defensive Line | 6-4 | 300 | Freshman | Kearns, UT (Kearns HS)

Will graduate this spring from Kearns High School in Utah…played both the offensive and defensive line…rated as the No. 15 recruit in the state of Utah by 247sports.com…named to Class 5A all-state second team by the Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune…also selected to the all-Region 2 first team on offense…mentioned among the “Other Top Players” in the all-Utah football team selected by espn.com…earned all-league honors in football, wrestling and basketball…one of the state’s top heavyweights in wrestling and also competes in basketball…runner-up at the state meet in the 285-pound division as a junior.

Mike Milovale | Offensive Line | 6-3 | 320 | Junior | Salinas, CA (Hartnell College)

Played two seasons at Hartnell College in California…rated as the No. 10 offensive guard nationally in junior college by 247sports.com…as a sophomore was named to 2011 CCCAA Region 1II all-state team…received Hartnell’s Offensive Lineman MVP award…helped team win the Coast Conference championship…anchored an offense that rushed for 166.3 yards per game including a running back that broke a 40-year old school rushing record…a 2010 graduate of Monterey High School in California…as a senior was named Monterey Bay League’s co-Outstanding Offensive Lineman award …also named all-league first team…a three-sport athlete who also competed in basketball and volleyball…attended Monterey for his junior and senior years…prior to that, attended Fagaitua High School in Pago Pago, American Samoa.

Harold Moleni | Tight End | 6-2 | 235 | Freshman | West Valley City, UT (Hunter HS)

Initially signed with Utah State out of high school but decided to serve a two-year church mission…a 2008 graduate of Hunter High School in West Valley City, Utah…two-sport athlete also played on basketball team…school’s all-time receptions leader…became the first player in Hunter history to start every game for three years in a row…a two-year 5A all-state second team and all-region selection…led the team in sacks as a junior.

Anthony Pierce | Cornerback | 5-9 | 150 | Freshman | Mission Viejo, CA (Mission Viejo HS)

Will graduate this spring from Mission Viejo High School in California…named to the all-Orange County first team and all-CIF-Southern Section Pac-5 Division…picked to Cal-Hi all-state fourth team…selected as co-MVP of the South Coast League and all-league first team as a senior…had three interceptions and forced four fumbles…helped Mission Viejo to the Southern Section Pac-5 semifinals…mentioned on OCVarsity’s Hot 100 list of the top players in Orange County…named all-league first team as a junior…father is former New York Giant linebacker Antonio Pierce, who is now an analyst for ESPN…also competed in track and field in the sprints events.

Kiha Sai | Offensive Line | 6-3 | 315 | Freshman | Honolulu, HI (Kamehameha Schools-Kapalama)

Will graduate this spring from Kamehameha Schools-Kapalama on O’ahu…played both guard and tackle on the offensive line…picked as the No. 3 prospect in the state of Hawai’i by ESPNU…rated the third-best prospect in the state and 38th-best offensive guard nationally by Rivals.com…ranked No. 3 recruit in the state and No. 51 offensive tackle by 247sports.com…named to Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s all-state third team and second-team all-ILH…picked to all-Hawai’i football team by espn.com…prior to the 2011 season, rated No. 2 recruit in the state by ESPNU…participated in the H.U.B. Goodwill Senior Bowl all-star game…member of 2009 Division I state championship team…a four-year varsity letterman.

John Ursua | Wide Receiver | 5-10 | 165 | Freshman | La’ie, HI (Cedar HS)

Will graduate this spring from Cedar High School in Cedar City, Utah…rated the No. 10 prospect in the state of Utah by Rivals.com…picked as the No. 18 recruit in the state by 247sports.com…as a senior threw for 1,005 yards and 10 touchdowns…named to Class 3A all-state first team by the Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune…Region 9 Offensive Most Valuable Player…averaged 17.3 yards per completion…rushed for 1,539 yards and 16 touchdowns…averaged 9.8 yards per carry and 128.3 yards per game…mentioned among the “Other Top Players” in the all-Utah football team selected by espn.com…transferred from Westlake High School where he played his sophomore and junior seasons…as a junior, threw for 1,478 yards and 21 touchdowns…rushed for 723 yards on 61 carries on the ground with 14 scores…named all-Valley Offensive Most Valuable Player and Class 4A all-state honorable mention…as a sophomore, threw for 1,376 yards and 13 touchdowns….attended Kealakehe High School on the island of Hawai’i as a freshman before moving to Utah…raised in La’ie, O’ahu…also lettered in basketball…brothers Jared and Jordan played football at Southern Utah.

Ethan Watanabe | Tight End | 6-2 | 265 | Freshman | San Antonio, TX (Brennan HS)

Will graduate this spring from Brennan High School in San Antonio, Texas…named to all-District 28-4A first team as a senior and all-district second team as a junior…a two-sport athlete who also competes in basketball…took part in the US Under-19 National Team Trials in 2011…father Chad Watanabe is a 1986 graduate of Nanakuli High School…uncle Tony Moeaki is a tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Lancelot Williams | Linebacker | 6-3 | 210 | Freshman | Honolulu, HI (Farrington HS)

Mid-year enrollee…a 2011 graduate of Farrington High School in Honolulu, O’ahu…a four-year letterman for the Governors…named Honolulu Star-Advertiser all-state honorable mention and all-OIA Red East second team as a senior…helped team to back-to-back appearances in the state semifinals and a 2008 runner-up finish in the OIA…selected to the H.U.B. Goodwill Senior Bowl all-star game…also selected to the Samoa Bowl…two-sport athlete who also competed in basketball…named to the HHSAA Division II basketball all-tournament team as a senior, helping the Governors capture the state championship…scored 13 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in the title game vs. Pahoa…selected Honolulu Star-Advertiser all-state honorable mention and all-OIA White first team.

Ikaika Woolsey | Quarterback | 6-0 | 210 | Freshman | Richmond, CA (Salesian HS)

Mid-year enrollee…a 2011 graduate of Salesian High School in Richmond, Calif…rated as the No. 7 pro-style quarterback nationally and the 101st-ranked recruit in the state of California by 247sports.com…as a senior was named to all-Bay Football League first team and the league’s Offensive MVP…selected to San Francisco Chronicle all-East Bay honorable mention…completed 137-of-225 for 2,492 yards and 36 touchdowns and only six interceptions…also rushed for 205 yards and six touchdowns…helped team capture league championship…team also went on to claim the North Coast Section Division IV championship for the second time in school history…threw for 252 yards and six touchdowns in an NCS Division IV second round win over Fortuna (Calif.)…competed in the Polynesian All-American Classic all-star game…as a junior, passed for 1,626 yards and 18 touchdowns and rushed for 250 yards and eight scores.

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