Islanders At ‘Other’ Oregon School

QB Cody vonAppen (7) is one of 10 Hawaii boys playing for Western Oregon. Photo courtesy Western Oregon University

It seems ironic that in this year of struggle for the University of Hawaii football program we still see greatness on the college gridiron from Island football players.

You’ve read Don Chapman’s cover story on the exploits of the University of Oregon’s nationally recognized quarterback Marcus Mariota of Saint Louis, as well seven other Island Ducks. But about 65 miles up the road from Eugene, in tiny Monmouth, another island signal caller has made big news this fall – with a supporting cast of other Island boys. And he has a very familiar name to Hawaii’s football fans.

Cody vonAppen, the son of former UH head coach Fred vonAppen, has put together some eye-popping stats at Western Oregon University. In a recent conference game, the 5-foot-10-inch senior quarterback completed 16 of 27 passes for 424 yards and four touchdowns in a 66-20 win over Dixie State.

What made that statistical information all the most incredible was that vonAppen finished with a QB efficiency rating of 240.06, which is off the charts! For his efforts, the former Kalaheo star was named the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Player of the Week.

“He’s a real leader,” Western Oregon head coach Arne Ferguson tells me.

“He’s all over the place; he’s like the Energizer Bunny,” said an opposing coach when facing vonAppen this season. “He just goes, goes, goes!”

That energetic and tough, competitive spirit has been a hallmark of vonAppen ever since his days playing quarterback at Kalaheo. As a senior, he helped lead the Mustangs to one of their biggest turnaround seasons and was named All-State for his efforts. Later, despite a misstep at the University of Montana, he eventually matriculated to Eastern Arizona College, where he led the Gila Monsters to a national ranking and a junior college bowl game.

This past year, the Kailua native transferred to Western Oregon, where he would join several other former Hawaii high school stars who play NCAA Division II football for the Wolves. There are 10 on the team’s roster this fall, including wide receiver/kick returner Lucas Gonsalves of Saint Louis, who was named All-Conference last season.

Other islanders include defensive back Patrick Tepea of Kailua, backup quarterback Trey Shimabukuro of Kauai, running back Leighton Panui of Waianae, kicker Jesse Correa of Mililani, linebackers Onipa’a Stevens of the Big Island, Tolu Naea of Waipahu, and offensive linemen Gaisoa Gaisoa of Waimanalo and Micah Kalepa of Hawaii Kai.

It’s almost as if you expect to see a shave ice or manapua truck sitting outside the Wolves’ stadium.

After coming up short in his first three starts this season, vonAppen rallied his team to five straight wins. Ironically, his willingness to throw his body all over the field may have gotten the best of him. While leading the Wolves to their fifth consecutive victory, vonAppen scampered out of the backfield for a huge 30-yard gain. But at the end of the play, he badly injured his shoulder. At press time, he was listed as doubtful for Western Oregon’s upcoming games.

“He’s pretty busted up about it,” says Coach Ferguson.

But whether vonAppen comes back to make plays on the field or ends up cheering on from the sidelines, he’ll be there at 100 percent for his team. That’s the leader in him, as he pushes many of Hawaii’s favorite sons on to victory in the great state of Oregon.