Hurricanes’ Standout Shines In Both Offense And Defense

The prevailing theme in football today is the need to “play fast.” But football remains very much a physical game, and Kapolei two-way standout Kaeo Kanoa’s ability to do both — play fast and deliver a big hit — has made him one of the top players in the state.

Football has always come easy for him, thanks in large part to his work ethic. His only dilemma was figuring out what position was his forte.

“I’d never played defense until I was moved up (to varsity) my sophomore year,” said Kanoa, a free safety/wide receiver for the Hurricanes. “I didn’t like it at first. When I got my first interception (against Mililani in 2010), everything changed. I found that was more fun than making a catch (on offense). When I started to make plays and hit, I loved it. Safety is the best position for me.”

Indeed, Kanoa was an immediate hit, and he’s one of the leaders of the Kapolei defense two years later. As a junior last fall, he had five interceptions. He’s also added another duty this fall — that of team leader. “Being a leader is not easy,” he said, “but feels good to have others see you working hard because they’re going to work hard right beside you.”

Kanoa’s football education began early. At the age of 8, he joined the Wahiawa Pop Warner program and quickly became a running back. “Growing up, my dad always had a football in my hand,” he said. “I liked it. In fact, I loved it. I put God first, but my dad was an All-State player and he always helps me with football. I wouldn’t be the player I am without him.”

Kanoa also places a lot of trust in his coaches, notably head coach Darren Hernandez, offensive coordinator Jason Cauley and defensive coordinator Brad Hewahewa.

“I love playing for Coach Darren,” said Kanoa, who is averaging 11.1 yards a catch on the offensive side. “We’re blessed to have them come in and help us. The things we do every day (in practice) get me excited.”

Kapolei was to play its home-opener versus Waianae over the weekend and has a bye this week before it returns to action Sept. 14 in a game against Leilehua that will be televised live on OC Sports Channel 12.

The next three weeks will be critical for Kanoa and the Hurricanes in their quest to position themselves for the OIA playoffs. The Red West race is as tight as it has ever been. Kanoa sees team unity as one of Kapolei’s strengths in 2012. The team was 2-1 entering last weekend’s action.

“This is the closest we’ve ever been — there’s a lot of brotherhood here,” he said. “We need everyone to keep having that self-motivation and faith in each other to be a good team. That’s what’s going to work for us.”

Kanoa already is being eyed by Division I college programs, but the recruiting season will intensify in late November after the prep season wraps. A fan of Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back Troy Polamalu, Kanoa would love the opportunity to play on Sundays someday.

“I’d love to play pro ball — that’s my dream,” he said.