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Newcomers Add Experience To Already Deep Mules Team

If the Leilehua football team is to be undone this fall, it won’t be from within. In the area of cohesiveness, the Mules are covered, head coach Nolan Tokuda said.

“Team chemistry,” responded Tokuda, when asked about Mule strength on the eve of fall camp. “Just watching them come together has been good. We’ve done some team-building activities to help. The focus is where we want it to be.”

As in past years, returnees practically made a second home of the weight room, while the past several weeks have centered around conditioning and 7-on-7 pass leagues. Under OIA guidelines, the team can begin full contact practices at the end of this week.

“We’re right where we want to be as far as conditioning and the kids buying in,” Tokuda said.

Twelve starters return from last year, when Leilehua went 10-2-1 overall, including 6-0 in the OIA Red West.

Marquee Matchup

The season-opener Aug. 10 against Service High School (Alaska) will be televised live at 7:30 p.m. on OC-16, along with the first game of the double-header, a matchup between West Anchorage (Alaska) and Punahou that starts at 4:30 p.m. Leilehua will spend much of fall camp preparing specifically for the Service game, according to Tokuda. Both schools met last year with the game ending in a 34-all tie. Service went on the win the Alaska state football title.

“It’s exciting for the program,” Tokuda said. “They’ll be solid and a good test for us.”

Making their mark

The Mules are hoping several high-profile transfers will have a big impact this fall. Two-time OIA Red Conference First Team pick Keoni Piceno, a wide receiver from Campbell, and 2011 White Conference Offensive Player of the Year Kaimi Paredes, previously of Pearl City, are among the relative newcomers.

Piceno’s younger brother, Ikaika, also is on the roster. Paredes’ brother, Keaka, who was Pearl City’s center last fall, also has transferred in, along with Branson Funakoshi, a defensive back from Mililani High.

Life after Kenan

With last year’s starting quarterback Kenan Sadanaga completing his eligibility, Leilehua will turn to Justin Jenks and Kaimi Paredes behind center. “They’ll split time,” Tokuda said. “Both do different things really well.”

The pair will have a formidable supporting cast as slot back Nick Rodriguez, wide receiver Keanu Ferreira-Kahele, slot back Conrad Supnet and linemen Jaryn Villegas, Dylan Tabigne and Siaosi Haunga all return to the offense.

The Mules averaged 31 points and 203 yards a game in 2011.

Football and Family

Leilehua defensive coordinator Mark Kurisu, who served as interim head coach last season while Tokuda reduced his role to tend to his growing family, was married recently to his wife Melody. That didn’t keep him from any football-related activities, however. “He didn’t miss a practice,” said Tokuda. “I’m really proud of the work the coaches have put in since February.”