Friday, September 9, 2022 | By Nick Abramo
It sounds like the name of a lead character on a TV series: Agenhart Ellis.
Prospective writers of that would-be show based in Hawaii would have to pick which Agenhart to focus on to tell the family story.
That’s because there are four of them who have played ILH football down through the years from the 1930s until now.
There’s the original Agenhart Ellis, of course. And then came the junior, the III and now the IV.
During the most exciting game of the 2022 high school football season so far — defending Open Division state champion Kahuku’s 27-20 comeback win over Punahou on the North Shore last Saturday — one of the many standouts was a kid wearing Buff ’N Blue with No. 21 on his jersey.
“Ellis, Agenhart Ellis IV, sir, reporting for duty,” he could say to Punahou coach Nate Kia on the first day of practice in the first episode.
A few moments later, as the would-be show is featuring a montage recapping the season in progress, you see this kid make a heavy duty tackle in slow motion with the Kahuku public address announcer saying, “Making that play is Agenhart Ellis.”
And then you see a ball thrown by Red Raiders quarterback Waika Crawford that appears to be going right into the hands of a receiver for about a 25-yard gain. Unreachable by anyone else, it seems. But instead, a blur from the left side flies over, jumps high, and gets a hand on the ball to knock it away from danger.
That particular play really happened in the fourth quarter against the Red Raiders.
“I felt like the guy was 15 yards away,” Ellis, a junior starting safety, told ESPN Honolulu on Wednesday. “It was straight up the middle, I saw the ball and was thinking that no way I could get the pick, but that I gotta bat it down. I know it looked like I coulda caught it, but the safer play was to knock it down.”
For sure, this fourth-in-the-line Ellis knows his family’s pride is important every single time he’s out there for a snap.
“It’s an honor to carry this name because I know how much of a legacy my (great-grandfather), grandpa and my dad have in Hawaii,” he said. “They’ve taught me to make sure that whenever I’m out on the field, I’m playing for our name. How do I best represent the family? Well, I don’t want to be a dirty player and I don’t want to talk trash and I want to be sportsmanlike and make sure I come out of the game in a positive light.”
Punahou (3-1) was 4 yards away from the tying touchdown when Saturday’s game ended, and Ellis believes his squad has what it takes to get to the promised land of an Open Division championship when all is said and done.
And the youngest of the Ellis football clan spoke about his tight-knit team, including what is the solid defensive unit that he’s a part of.
“Our defense has a lot of talent and we also have a lot of juniors,” he said. “It starts with the pass rush from the D-line. They change the game for us by lessening the time the quarterback has and it makes our job so much easier. All of our linebackers are studs and our DB group all have each other’s backs.”
In the 1960s, Agenhart IV’s grandfather — Agenhart Ellis Jr., now 77 — was a Kamehameha two-way lineman who went on to be a coach and athletic director at Farrington.
Reached by phone on Wednesday, the granddad did not want to cross over into hyperbole. As a matter of fact, what he said will likely serve as incentive for the boy. After all, this is the kid’s first year on varsity.
“He’s young and he’s skinny,” the grandfather, who played at Kansas and the University of Hawaii in college, said. “He’s still learning, but he’s getting taller and needs to put on some muscle.”
And, of course, Ellis Jr. is still very much a fan of his grandson and his son, Agenhart Ellis III, a former Kamehameha and University of Hawaii defensive back who is a Buff ’N Blue linebackers coach.
“I’m proud of them,” Ellis Jr. continued. “So far, they haven’t done anything stupid. And actually the best athlete in the family is Aulii (a 1993 Kamahemaha graduate who won multiple state tiles in volleyball, basketball and softball).”
In the late 1930s and early ‘40s, the one they all descended from — the original Agenhart Ellis — was an All-Star two-way end for Kamehameha.
Mary Ellis, the wife of the first Agenhart, was looking forward to seeing a great grandson named Agenhart IV play some day, but she died in 2002, four years before he was born.
“My grandma was a big part of our family,” Agenhart III said. “She’s watching down on him.”
As for his son, Agenhart III gave this assessment, “I think he’s long and physical and he uses that as a strength to reroute receivers and play the ball in the air.”
With all those in the family who played football at Kamehameha before him, it might seem like an oddity that Agenhart IV chose to play for Punahou. But it was actually a natural choice.
“I’ve been (coaching) at Punahou since 2009,” Agenhart III, now 49, said. “He was a young boy about age 5 and would come to football camp and sleep over for a whole week. He was raised around a lot of football and I guess he ended up liking it (at Punahou).”
The Buff ’N Blue, who emerged after nonleague games with a No. 2 state ranking by ScoringLive.com, have a bye this week and return to the field for their ILH opener against Saint Louis on Sept. 17 at Farrington’s Skippa Diaz Stadium.
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