Baldwin Faces Stiff Test Against Saint Louis Saturday
By Rodney S. Yap
The Baldwin High School football team plans to be “all business” Saturday, when the 10th-ranked Bears fly to Honolulu to face sixth-ranked Saint Louis School in a non-league contest at Aloha Stadium.
“The kids are excited,” said Baldwin head coach AJ Roloos. “It’s game week for us. The kids are tired of beating up each other in practice. It will be fun to finally play against someone.”
If the Bears are not beating up themselves, they are beating up opponents in the Maui Interscholastic League. Last year, for example, the Bears’ perfect 8-0 season was highlighted by four league shutouts and a collective beat down of 298 to 41.
Instead of hosting a California school, like the Bears have done the last several years, Roloos wanted a preseason challenge closer to home and jumped at the chance to play an Interscholastic League of Honolulu powerhouse Saint Louis.
The 5 p.m. contest at Aloha Stadium is the second game of a scheduled doubleheader, starting with Vacaville Christian facing Damien at 2 p.m.
“Whatever happens, happens,” said Roloos. “We realize they are a tough team. But we wanted to put the kids against higher caliber teams. We’re going to be tested and it’s going to be good to see how our players react and how our coaches react.”
In addition, Roloos said playing at Aloha Stadium can be intimidating.
“It’s a big thing for the kids. We remind them that the field is the same — it’s a 100 yards long and 53 yards wide — but there is a different atmosphere.”
Roloos hopes this preseason experience will translate to postseason success should his team return to the state tournament.
Last year the Bears earned their first win state tournament win since 2007, turning back second-ranked Farrington 28-24 at War Memorial Stadium. The victory put them in the semifinals for the sixth time in the 12-year history of the tournament.
A week later, however, Baldwin fell hard to Punahou 35-0 in the semifinals at Aloha Stadium.
“We will have our walk through in the morning when we get there. It’s all business for us. We fly in, we go straight to the stadium, we’ll have lunch there and we return to Maui later on the last flight.”
For starters, Baldwin will look different when it steps onto the field Saturday. The Bear paw has been added to Baldwin’s traditional maroon-colored helmets.
“After 12 years, I thought it would be a nice change,” said Roloos, who is entering his sixth year as head coach. “Everyone seems to like it and the maroon color is also a higher gloss finish.”
What hasn’t changed is Baldwin’s wide-open offensive philosophy or its solid 4-4 based defense.
“We know they are tough,” said Saint Louis head coach Matt Wright. “I think Baldwin really showed the state last year that the outer-island teams can play on center stage and they did a fabulous job going as far as they did.”
Saint Louis is coming off a 39-33 defeat to Farrington on Aug. 16 and will host national power Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas on Sept. 1. Bishop Gorman kicks off its season tonight at home against Our Lady of Good Counsel from Maryland on ESPN2. Our Lady has 14 players with Division I scholarship offers and finished last year ranked No. 6 by USA Today. Gorman was No. 5.
“We have a gauntlet of a preseason schedule, three powerhouse teams and we have to be ready for all three,” Wright said. “It’ll be a tough challenge, but we know it will also set the tone for our season.”
For the first time, Baldwin enters the season with three players already considering Division I scholarship offers and two others on the cusp of being recruited.
Two-time MIL Offensive Player of the Year Keelan Ewaliko (6-0, 180) returns to lead the offense, while tackle Miki Fangatua (6-0, 253) and junior Jordan Hoiem (6-4, 220) spearhead a defense that returns eight starters, including the entire secondary.
Quarterback Ewaliko has verbally committed to Hawaii, while Weber State has offered Fangatua and interest in Hoiem continues to grow. Hawaii, Utah, Utah State and UNLV have all made official offers to Hoiem, the MIL’s first underclassmen to receive a Division I scholarship offer.
Baldwin’s other Division I prospects are defensive back Abraham Reinhardt (5-11, 180, Sr.) and linebacker Tevarua Eldridge (6-2, 225, Jr.).
All that talent continues to draw state-wide and national attention to a football program most noted for having produced NFL linebackers Kaluka Maiava (USC) and Jojo Dickson (Idaho) at Cleveland.
“I’m expecting a big crowd,” Roloos said. “Everybody wants to see what we got. . . . We’re going to play our game and do what we do. There are going to be butterflies, the key will be how we handle adversity. We have to keep our composure and coach the kids up right.
“The question is, what are we going to do when Saint Louis hits us in the face,” Roloos said. “What we want to do is hit them in the face first.”
Saint Louis is hardly short on talent, with more and a half dozen Division I prospects and another four or five underclassmen receiving national attention from services like Rivals.com and Scout.com.
“We saw some of the highlights of their game against Farrington,” Roloos said. “They are big and of course they are very athletic. Plus they play tough games every week, so they are always ready.”
In all, the Crusaders have 35 seniors, including two of the top position players in the state in wide receiver Jeremy Tabuyo (5-11, 180, Sr.) and tackle Reeve Koehler (6-3, 321, Sr.).
“We are lucky to have the senior leadership that we have,” Wright said.
Tabuyo, one of the fastest sprinters in the state, can run the 40 in 4.34 seconds. In late July, Tabuyo verbally committed to Texas A&M. The Aggies’ offensive coordinator is Kliff Kingsbury who orchestrated Houston’s wide-open offense that produced three 1,000-yard receivers in the same season. Tabuyo had 10 other offers, including Pac-12 schools Oregon, Oregon State, Utah, and Washington.
Few defensive backs in the state can stay with Tabuyo. The playmaker is dangerous in the open field and can also return kicks and punts.
“He’s a track guy, has plenty of speed, good hands and elusiveness, he’s got it all,” Wright said. “And Reeve has the size and technique as an offensive lineman that you’re looking for.”
Rivals.com ranks Koehler the No. 1 guard in the nation and No. 32 overall from its top 100. Koehler currently has 12 Division I offers, including Alabama, Oregon, Tennessee, Georgia and Washington.
Starting quarterback Kawai Mook-Garcia (5-11, 180, Sr.) “is back and he’s ready go,” after sitting out the Farrington game for non-football violations. Sophomore
Defensively, the Crusaders are led by senior defensive end Kamalei Correa (6-3, 245) and linebacker Colton Goeas (6-0, 246, Sr.).
There has been plenty of West schools interested in Correa, more than a dozen, in fact, including Boise State, Oregon, and Arizona. Meanwhile, Goeas has verbally committed to Tennessee. The linebacker runs a 4.6 40, can bench press 225 pounds 25 times and has a 34 inch vertical jump.
Opposite Correa is Jaron Hall-Moniz (6-2, 225, Sr.), while linebackers Drew Duarte (5-10, 215, Sr.) and Nela Otukolo (5-11, 220, So.) will compliment Goeas. The secondary is led by defensive backs Jacob Lacaden (6-0, 190, Jr.) and Pali Galdeira (6-0, 190, Sr.).
ScoringLive/OC16 Football Power Rankings – Week 3
|2||Farrington (3)||118||vs. Castle|
|6||Saint Louis||55||vs. #10 Baldwin|
|8||Campbell||33||vs. #9 Aiea|
|9||Aiea||24||at #8 Campbell|
|10||Baldwin||22||vs. #6 Saint Louis|
Also receiving votes: Waianae – 18, Iolani – 13, Damien – 2, Kealakehe – 2, Kapolei – 1