By MATT GERHART
Tribune-Herald sports writer
The list made Moku Pita wince.
The first-year Waiakea High football coach was reading one newspaper’s take on the top high school football prospects to watch for statewide Thursday, and Pita couldn’t help but notice that there was only one player from the Big Island Interscholastic Federation — and it was Drew Kell, who transferred from Hilo High after last school year and moved to Oregon.
Pita, an Oahu native and a former Kahuku assistant, wasn’t exactly caught off-guard by the Oahu-centric list, but he would like to do something to add more BIIF names in the future. He figures the first step is getting more players to come out for football, a bigger challenge on the Big Island than it is on Oahu.
“When the water is nice (here), they go fishing,” Pita said. “Back home, they’re bred for football.
“I want to bring our guys up and make the BIIF known.”
With that in mind, Pita, who’s also a security guard at Waiakea, went around the school early in the year to get the word out.
“I’m just trying to bring that same mentality and culture from Kahuku to here,” said, Pita, who takes over the reins after working two years under Fred Lau. “I talked to some kids and looked at some kids who never came out and said, ‘Hey, why don’t you come play football.”’
The early returns of his recruiting effort were positive, and the offseason workout numbers increased dramatically. While Pita said the Warriors only had about 20 players come out during the spring the last two seasons, he said this year they had about 90 all told between varsity and junior varsity. That number may not rival the 100 or so varsity players that he figures Kakuku will boast this year, but it’s a start.
Pita likes his senior group, so offensively the Warriors could look a lot like they did last year when they take the field at 2 p.m. today at Hawaii Prep in the BIIF’s first preseason game.
After splitting time with Kean Wong last season under center, senior Kayed Rodrigues will guide Waiakea’s spread attack, and senior running back Devin Preston, who enters his third season as a starter, will be the primary ball carrier. But Pita plans to take eventually take full advantage of an offensive line — led by seniors Brandt Shiroma, Kyle Willocks and Alan Sekona — that’s one of the Warriors’ strongest units.
“I just want to keep it easy,” Pita said. “We’re going to run pretty much the same thing we ran last year. We’ll start out with the spread and work some power in later on.”
Speaking of power, Warriors defenders could see plenty of that today in the form of bruising running back Bobby Lum, one of HPA’s 15 seniors.
The Ka Makani got off to a slow start last season but showed signs of promise in finishing 3-2 during the second half for a 5-7 finish in Division II.
“We’ve got a good group of seniors and we’ve had good practices,” coach Jordan Hayslip said.
Waiakea is looking for a fresh start after finishing 3-7 in Division I.
“I’m just anxious for my first game as a head coach,” Pita said “I’m a little nervous. I can’t sleep. I can’t wait. You don’t even know.”
Kalaheo at Kamehameha-Hawaii, 7 p.m. today
The Warriors open the schedule against the Mustangs of the Oahu Interscholastic Association, their first of three preseason games against off-island teams.
Kamehameha scrimmages against King Kekaulike of Maui next Saturday at home, then travels to face Interscholastic of Honolulu powerhouse Iolani on Aug. 24.
“We’re trying to see if we can get as good as competition as we can,” coach Dan Lyons said. “Kalaheo, I think they’ll run the option and try to possess the ball. We’ll have to be disciplined.”
Lyons said most of his depth chart was sorted out during preseason camp.
Junior Micah Kanehailua returns and has a firm hold on the No. 1 quarterback position, while Grant Shiroma, last year’s QB on the JV team, will join the backfield to complement workhorse running back Ina Teofila.