Luat-Hueu, Malafu Playing J.C. Football in California
By Rodney S. Yap
Two former Maui Interscholastic League football all-stars, now playing at junior colleges in Northern California, returned to the field Saturday after stellar September debuts.
Former King Kekaulike standout Kepa Luat-Hueu returned to his safety position in Santa Rosa’s secondary, where he helped the Bear Cubs post a 37-10 victory over visiting Foothill. Santa Rosa, who plays in the NorCal Conference, snapped a four-game losing streak and improved to 3-4 overall.
Luat-Hueu broke up one pass and made a pair of tackles to raise his season total to 18 tackles and two interceptions in four games.
“It felt good to get back, but the coaches minimized my reps because they don’t want to re-injure myself,” said Luat-Hueu, who suffered an ankle injury against American River on Sept. 22. “I helped out as much as I could.”
Former Baldwin High School running back Kina Malafu is now at Feather River Junior College, approximately 4 1/2 hours north of Santa Rosa, where he is the team’s second leading rusher with 182 yards and two touchdowns in five games. At Sacramento on Saturday, Malafu only had nine yards on eight carries as Feather River suffered its fourth loss (33-6) against three wins.
In September, Malafu played in four games, leading the team with 109 yards and one touchdown on 18 carries at Merced, Sept. 22. Malafu’s fourth-quarter touchdown run of 1 yard, capped a seven-play, 63-yard drive and helped Feather River cut Merced’s lead to 24-20. Malafu also had a season-long run of 39 yards.
Luat-Hueu started the first three games at safety and had a career game on Sept. 15 against Sacramento, despite losing 37-32. Luat-Hueu finished with 11 total tackles, 10 solo and three behind the line of scrimmage for minus 8 yards. He also had an interception returned for a 75-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter that cut Sacramento’s lead to 31-26. Only linebacker Garrett Guanella had more tackles than Luat-Hueu.
“It felt really good,” said the two-time MIL all-star. “I didn’t know I was going to take it to the house but when I got it, I was like, ‘Oh crap, I got the ball, now I got to run.’ ”
Luat-Hueu said he was in position to make the interception. “Yeah that’s been my biggest game I’ve had so far. . . . I was in the right spot so I just broke on the ball when I saw it and got it.”
Being where he supposed to be is part of the learning curve, Luat-Hueu said.
“It’s been way different. The game is much faster and more aggressive. I’ve learned a lot about coverages and where to line up on runs and passes.”
Luat-Hueu said his parents flew up to watch his first two games of the season — both wins against Mendocino (51-20) and Diablo Valley (28-26) — and his grandparents was in attendance at American River when he injured himself.
“I got an ankle injury, I got trucked — ran over — and my ankle got stuck in the ground and as I was getting run over it just popped and I was out of the rest of the game.”
Physically, the 5-foot-11, 180-pound Makawao resident said his strength and speed were up to par with the other defensive backs on his team.
“I adapted when I got here. I was one of the more physical safeties that we have, but the drills we do in practice helps me for game time. . . . it was mostly knowing where to go and where not to be.”
Dealing with pulling offensive linemen is the toughest physical challenge, Luat-Hueu said.
“They come down looking for scared little guys,” he laughed. “It’s been good though, it’s fun. Coaching is different, but its fun and it’s been a good experience.”
The Bear Cubs are now 1-1 in conference play with three games remaining, De Anza at home this Saturday, at San Francisco on Nov. 3, and hosting San Mateo on Nov. 10.
“We’ve been playing hard, but we’re just not finishing everything we do. When we need a stop, we can’t get it, but when we don’t need a stop, we’re getting it, so it’s been challenging. We have to buckle down for our next three games if we are going to make the conference playoffs.”
Both Luat-Hueu and Malafu are not the only MIL players currently on their respective rosters.
At Santa Rosa, Luat-Hueu is joined by former Lahainaluna stars Micah Arcangel and Paula Toa, a starting sophomore linebacker with 26 total tackles in six games. Luat-Hueu said Arcangel has decided to red-shirt due to an injury. Kekaulike classmate and best friend Emelio Maave is a grey-shirt, Luat-Hueu said.
On Saturday, Toa had five tackles, including two behind the line of scrimmage and his first sack of the season for minus-10 yards.
“I never knew him,” Luat-Hueu said of Toa, who was an MIL all-star defensive back for the Lunas in 2010. “But I’ve seen him play at Lahaina, when I was playing jayvee. He was a safety when he first got here and he’s moved to linebacker.
“We’ve been chill since I’ve been up here, I’ve supported him and all the Hawaii boys are tight.”
Toa’s other highlight of the season came against Fresno City College, where he finished fifth on the team with six tackles.
Joining Malafu at Feather River College (3-4) are BJ Wilhelm-Ioane (BHS ’12), Jameson Kahalekai-Bermoy (BHS ’12), Dana Sato (BHS ’11) and Jordan Kahalekai-Bermoy (St. Anthony/Saint Louis ’10).
Wilhelm-Ioane, a freshmen linebacker, has played in two games, in the opener against Butte where he had three tackles and against Shasta. Jameson is listed as an offensive linemen and has appeared in three games. He’s been credited with two tackles. Older brother, Jordan, ls a running back and has played in four games with one carry for one yard. Sato has yet to see any playing time.
“I live right next to the campus, I just walk to school,” said Luat-Hueu.
When asked what he misses most, he said, “I miss the weather, the beach, and of course my family.”