At the occasion of the Rainbow Warrior football team’s final bye for 2019, it seems like a good time to evaluate the season so far. Their season record as it stands is 4-1. So here we go…
As always, we start with the QB. Starter Cole McDonald has been mostly good, and sometimes very, very good. He has an excellent mastery of the offense, throws an exceptional deep ball, is an adept ball handler and is more than adequate runner. He is calm under pressure and appears to be making better decisions almost by the week.
One area that needed improving was on throwing interceptions, often because he would force a ball deep where it wasn’t open. To that end, his last game was his best. He went 25 of 30 for 312 yards and 4 TDs with no picks, and almost always went for the best choice of the most open receiver. It earned him MWC offensive player of the week. If he continues on his current path, the numbers will be gaudy and the recognition will be national. Already, he is completing 69% of his passes!
The offensive line has been extraordinary, and this despite having lost two starters to injury. Both Kohl Levao and Solo Vaipulu are expected back, and when they return UH will be deeper and better than they are now, which is saying something. The line has surrendered only 8 sacks (less than 4 per 100 passes attempted) and relatively few pressures. Those numbers will help this team win a lot of games.
The receivers have been as good a group as there is in the country. They have two pass catchers in the top ten in TDs, and the same pair (Byrd and Ward) are top 20 in yards gained. Jared Smart has been a revelation as a new outside threat, and Jason Matthew Sharsh is Mr. Reliable with 9 grabs for 123 yards and a TD in the last game alone. Backups Melquise Stovall, Richie Phillips and Lincoln Victor would be starters on many other teams.
The running back group took a hit when Dayton Furuta went down with an injury and subsequent season-ending surgery, but Freddy Holly and Miles Reed have stepped up in the Fruit Train’s absence, and big back (6’2 237 lbs.) Hekili Kelliliki looks like he can get the hard yards inside, and he doesn’t mind running people over.
This group has been steadily improving. The rotation at D line has been working hard to get a stronger pass rush and to better slow down some of the talented runners they have faced. They have improved in the second half of every game which tells you that, 1) the coaches (led by DC Corey Batoon) are adept at halftime adjustments, and 2) the players listen. Kaimana Padello continues to be a relentless force, and Blessman Taala, Mason Vega, Kendall Hume, Derek Thomas and Pumba Williams have all played significant roles.
The LB corps once seemed quite deep, but has been hurt by injuries. Solomon Matautia, Paul Scott, Kanai Picanco have been stalwarts; true freshman Darius Muasai has made a big contribution; and now Jeremiah Pritchard has returned from injury.
The secondary has been anywhere from acceptable to great, led by corners Ro Farris and newcomer Cortez Davis. The safeties have rotated between Kalen Hicks, Ikem Okeke, and Khoury Bethley. Two men have played the nickel: Eugene Ford and Kai Kaneshiro. Others will contribute before season’s end.
Special teams, supervised by the energetic Michael Gobrial, have been relentless in coverage, truly special in the return game with Melquise Stovall, and even scored with a punt block by Andrew Choi and a scoop and score by Justice Augafa. Punter Stan Gaudion has been effective, and though PK Ryan Meskel got off to a rocky start, he is showing signs of rounding into last season’s form.
All in all, ongoing improvements give great hope for the rest of the year, particularly coming off the absolute destruction of Nevada in Reno, where the game was not as close as the 54-3 score would indicate. The toughest road game of the year will in Boise next week, and if there is a week to top the Nevada performance, next week would be a great choice. Go, Rainbow Warriors!
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