It has been three years since Kaua’i High head football coach Kelii Morgado brought his system to the Red Raider program, and each year his team has come closer to getting it right.
Now Morgado says his players have matured in the system – which employs a fast-paced passing offense and a flexible defense – and are ready for the upcoming KIF season.
“We were successful at camp on the Big Island,” said Morgado, who noted the Red Raiders were able to get in five scrimmages with local high schools. “We were able to move the ball on offense. The guys have become comfortable with their assignments.”
Morgado’s system, which he says relies on speed and discipline, is ideal for a Kaua’i team that lacks size and numbers. Fielding just 29 players, the Red Raiders will need to steer clear from injury in order to keep the system intact.
“With low numbers, we really need everyone to stay healthy this year,” said Morgado.
The loss of key players last year truly hurt the Red Raiders, which improved on an 0-6 (regular season) record in 2000 to a 1-5 record in 2001.
After linebacker Dustin Goias was sidelined with a broken leg mid-season, a gaping hole was left in the Raider defense. The gap was apparent in a game against Waimea, when running back Jordon Dizon amassed 138 yards in just one half. It didn’t help that right guard Marlon Bucao (a replacement at the linebacker position) was also banged up in a subsequent outing – the Red Raiders, who topped Kapa’a 13-7 in the first game of the season, fell to the Warriors in their second meeting 41-14, one week after Goias fell injured.
This was just one example of the Red Raiders’ injury-plagued season, which also saw injuries to running back Jameson Smith and quarterback Kamoi’i Refamonte, among others.
This year, look for experienced talent to resurface with a sharper, refined knowledge of Morgado’s plan.
Lead captain Jerrick Amaki, a necessity on the Red Raider’s offensive and defensive line, will bring his quickness and agility to both sides of the ball. Morgado describes the 5’8″ 210-pound lineman – a KIF All-Star in 2001 – as an “all around player: explosive, strong, and smart on the field.”
Joining Amaki is senior captain Raym Jerves, an outside linebacker described as a “sure tackler and good blocker.” He will also contribute as a wide receiver, kicker and punter.
“He is a vital part of this team,” said Morgado. “His good hands and knowledge of the system are an asset to this program.”
Expect a big year out of junior cornerback and receiver Justin Arakaki, the fastest Red Raider who can make tackles and also has good hands. Arakaki can beat defenses downfield, and Morgado hopes he, along with Jerves, will be a favorite of sophomore quarterback Kekoa Crowell, who had a successful tenure with the Red Raider junior varsity team last season.
There are others to watch out for, and you can look for them in tomorrow’s preseason game against Maui, which will be held at Vidinha Stadium at 7:30 p.m. Kaua’i topped Maui last year 21-13 in one of its most successful outings of the season.