Aiea Defense Regroups This Summer With A Young Team

The Aiea defense never rebuilds; it simply regroups. With that in mind, longtime head coach Wendell Say expects Na Ali’i to maintain their upward mobility on that side of the ball this fall – even with relative newcomers in most of the starting positions.

“Our defense has been solid – it’s been one of the best in the state the last two years,” said Say. “We hope for the same type of output this year. (Defensive coordinator) Mika (Liilii) always does an excellent job.”

The Aiea defense held opponents to less than 75 yards rushing per outing and yielded 14.0 points per game in 2011. Na Ali’i finished 4-6 overall last season and 2-4 in the OIA’s Red West. Aiea recently wrapped up spring practice, but the beginning of its preparation goes back to the winter spent in the weight room.

“The one thing we’ve talked about here the past few days has been the commitment by our players we saw in the off-season,” said Say. “We had 100-plus kids coming out regularly.”

Although only four return to the defense from last year, three are in the secondary: safeties A.J. Aleaga and Samate Talia, and corner back Kyle Ishikawa. All three will be seniors.

“This will be A.J.’s fourth year on the varsity. He’s very quick … and he’s pretty much fearless. Samate is very talented and very raw. He’s a hitter who can make big plays … Kyle is one of the smarter kids on the team, and he plays smart.”

Defensive end Ualesi Sale highlights the Aiea defense. A senior-to-be, he already has received eight scholarship offers and currently is rated seventh among Hawaii prep prospects in the class of 2013, according to the recruiting service

“He’s started here since his sophomore year,” Say said. “He’s a very good athlete – one of the best we’ve had here in a long time. Colleges are looking at him as a linebacker.”

Aiea is in the midst of its 7-on-7 pass league season, with the official beginning of fall camp just under a month away. Na Ali’i didn’t have full contact drills as part of its spring practice.

” We’d rather spend those 10 days teaching our schemes. We have a young team. We have some holes to plug, but the kids coming up from the JV team will do well.”

Aiea’s opens its 2012 slate Aug. 10 with a pre-season game versus Kaimuki.