De­fense Leads A Tough And Tal­ented Leile­hua Team

MidWeek Islander (Central Oahu) - - Central Oahu Sports - By JACK DANILEWICZ

For the Leile­hua football team, the 2012 sched­ule has been un­re­lent­ing — kind of like its de­fense, which shows no signs of let­ting up.

The Mules kicked off against de­fend­ing Alaska state cham­pion Ser­vice High School then had a date with ILH pow­er­house Kame­hameha Aug. 18. Leile­hua won both games, thanks in large part to their de­fen­sive ef­forts.

Two games into the sea­son, the team has forced seven take­aways, leav­ing it at plus-four in turnover­ra­tio.

“Ob­vi­ously, the de­fense has played lights out,” said head coach Nolan Tokuda, whose team is yield­ing only 12 points per game to its op­po­nents. “They’ve been a great sur­prise be­cause they (the forced turnovers) have come at op­por­tune times. (De­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor) Mark (Kurisu) does a great job year-in and year-out, but to see it on the field again (in 2012) gives us high hopes.

“We wanted to see how we’d do against two re­ally tough de­fenses, and they’ve stepped it up. They’re giv­ing us time to grow on of­fense.”

On Satur­day night, Leile­hua will face ar­guably its big­gest chal­lenge of the young sea­son: ri­val Mililani. In re­cent years, this game served as the OIA Red West fi­nale for both.

Among the rea­sons the Mules’ de­fense has been stel­lar is depth on the line. Kurisu has been ro­tat­ing eight phys­i­cal and ag­ile wide bod­ies — Chavez Moala, Jhonny Al­varez, An­drew Ses­pasara, Jeremy Taua, Ju­nior Si­tani, Ken­dric Nunes, Robert McCarthy and Torenzo Vereen — into the mix.

“It all starts up front,” Tokuda said of his line, which has helped hold op­po­nents to just 90 yards on the ground per game. “We’ve been able to keep them fresh (as a unit), and they’ve been giv­ing 100 per­cent ef­fort ev­ery play. That’s al­lowed our lineback­ers to make plays.”

Ses­pasara is among the Iron Men, per­form­ing both ways for the Mules, along with line­backer/run­ning back Keannu Ka­makaiwi. Se­nior Le­land Wong also earned spe­cial praise from the coach­ing staff. Fel­low line­backer Sam­son Zim­mer­man missed the Kame­hameha game, but fig­ures to be full-go for the Mililani game.

The de­fen­sive plan be­gins with try­ing to con­tain Tro­jan quar­ter­back Jarin Morikawa. Now a se­nior, Morikawa al­ready has thrown for 464 yards and five touch­downs (against just one in­ter­cep­tion) in lead­ing Mililani to wins over Moanalua and Pac-Five. Morikawa is no stranger to the Leile­hua pro­gram. He was a ball boy in 2007 for the Mules when they won the state cham­pi­onship. His fa­ther was then the quar­ter­backs coach for Leile­hua.

“I usu­ally text him be­fore his games, say a prayer for him, and wish him the best,” Tokuda said. “He’s grown into a fine young man. He’s a stu­dent of the game and a very in­tel­li­gent kid — he has a 3.7 gpa. Our hands will be full with him.”

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