By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.
The 2021 University of Hawaii football season is over, and it’s time to hand out our unofficial Warrior Awards!
TOP ACHIEVEMENT OF THE YEAR: The most notable achievement of the 2021 season occurred off the field…actually, it involved the field. Major kudos to UH Athletics Director David Matlin and his team for getting the Clarence TC Ching Athletics Complex retrofit done in time for the start of the season. When you factor in the snail-like pace of most state construction projects, the Ching retrofit was in itself no minor miracle. Here’s hoping the planned seating expansion for next season also goes without a hitch.
PLEASANT SURPRISE OF THE YEAR: One of the benefits of having an on-campus facility for football games is an increased student presence, and certainly it was a welcome sight to see a large section of UH students cheering on their team and waving ti leaves. Next season, COVID-19 notwithstanding, we should see an even larger student presence.
NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR: Dedrick Parson, a transfer from Howard University, stepped right in and contributed immediately at the running back position, finishing second on the team in rushing yards (636) and tied for first in rushing TDs (8). He also had 28 receptions for 279 yards and another TD. Parson filled in as the starter when Dae Dae Hunter went down for three games and the performed well, posting a season-high 161 yards and three TDs on Oct. 23 against New Mexico State.
BEST PLAY OF THE YEAR: In the season finale against Wyoming, Chevan Cordeiro’s 50-yard “Hail Mary” pass at the end of the first half connected with receiver Jared Smart for a key TD. The Cowboys had just scored to pull within 17 points and were going to get the ball to start the second half. Cordeiro-to-Smart TD took the wind out of Wyoming’s sails. Great throw by Cordeiro, amazing grab by Smart.
BEST GAME OF THE YEAR: Of Hawaii’s six victories, none was sweeter than the 27-24 victory over No. 18 Fresno State at home. It was Hawaii’s first win over a ranked team in over a decade. Hawaii safety/linebacker Khoury Bethley went wild in this one, recording nine tackles, two interceptions, a sack and a forced fumble. He was named the National Defensive Player of the Week for his performance.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Yes, his overall season could be labeled as a disappointment, but QB Chevan Cordeiro finished the campaign with strong performances against Colorado State and Wyoming. Most importantly, his efforts showed that, when healthy, Cordeiro is Hawaii’s most effective offensive weapon. His final 2021 stats: 2,793 passing yards for 17 TDs (11 INTs) and 555 rushing yards and three more TDs.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Honestly, we can’t decide between Bethley and linebacker Darius Muasau. So we’ll give it to both of them. Muasau led UH with 109 tackles, seven sacks, 14 TFLs, five forced fumbles, one pass breakup and an INT. Bethley had 100 tackles, four sacks, 8.5 TFLs, five INTs, six pass breakups and one forced fumble.
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Placekicker Matthew Shipley quietly put together a solid season for the Rainbow Warriors, converting 18 of 21 FG attempts. He was also a perfect 42 of 42 in extra point conversions. He definitely deserved to at least be named an All-MW Honorable Mention.
2021 MOST OUTSTANDING PLAYER: Muasau and Bethley. Easily.