Spring Game A Chance For New Mules To Display Skills

Leilehua head football coach Nolan Tokuda doesn’t mind that his Mules are often identified as an offensive power, given the points they’ve put up over the years and the steady stream of stellar quarterbacks and talented supporting casts at the skilled positions on the offensive side.

The defense hardly operates off of the radar, however. Indeed, what has kept Leilehua among the state’s elite has been its ability to shut down teams on the defensive side.

All signs point once again to defensive coordinator Mark Kurisu and players fielding a solid defense.

“(Kurisu) will introduce yet another scheme that should create some chaos this year,” Tokuda said. “He already has his base 4-3, his Attack-30 defense, and now he’ll be using the 4-2-5, which was made famous by TCU, and which is perfect against spread teams. They create a lot of turnovers with it.”

Leilehua gave up 238.9 total yards per outing last season, including an average of just 94.3 a game through the air. The Mules finished 7-4 overall (3-3 in the OIA Red West) last fall, yielding an average of 20 points per game.

The Mules were to begin spring practice Monday with their public unveiling set for the annual spring game at 4:30 p.m. May 31. “For other Red West schools wishing to come out and scout us, it begins at 6:30,” Tokuda joked.

A stable of key returnees should help Kurisu reload on the defensive side of the ball.

“Torenzo Vereen, Maake Muti, Allan Lagala, Mac Crowley and Soga Eli should bring some pressure to opposing quarterbacks,” said Kurisu of the defensive line. “Our returning line-backers Alema Schmidt and Sione Haunga should also be solid, along with newcomer Zadus Dili Williams.”

A new-look secondary will prevail in the back, where the Mules lost all four starters to graduation. “We have transfers from the Mainland in Anthony Johnson and Steven Elam, who should solidify our secondary, along with Deshaun Osborne who was a shut-down defensive back on the JV team and Will Pule, who we moved from running back to safety.”

Offensively, the Mules still have their top returning passer, rusher and receiver as well as four linemen.

Senior-to-be Justin Jenks is projected as the quarterback, early-on, after starting every game last fall at the position. He threw for 1,808 yards and 17 touchdowns last year. “Justin should hold down the job, but (transfer) Kalanimoku Pauole is learning the offense nicely,” Tokuda noted.

Also back is running back Ikaika Piceno, who rushed for 312 yards and five touchdowns as a junior in 2012. “He is our work horse, and he adds some explosiveness to our run-game.”

Tokuda also is excited about the progress of tight end/fullback Kendrick Nunes, who was an offensive lineman last year. The pass-catching corps is highlighted by Tristin Kamaka and Dustin Ancheta Maeda.

Up front, Tokuda’s counting on returnees Siaosi Haunga, Dylan Tabigne, Soakimi Hufanga, Epeli Natoko and Waipahu-transfer Bronson Moala.

The Mules’ return game also will feature veterans Kelvin Cabebe Camanse and Eli Calzo.