Warriors making strides all around

PUKALANI – Chase Newton has grown stronger over the past year, adding 15 pounds of muscle to boost his 6-foot-2 frame to 220 pounds.

The senior quarterback for Kamehameha Schools Maui thinks it is a trend for the Warriors.

“I feel stronger,” Newton said at practice last week. “I feel like everyone’s more on board this season, understands what’s going on. We’re just working to get better.”

Newton passed for 1,521 yards last year, the highest total in the Maui Interscholastic League since Jordan Helle – the Warriors’ offensive coordinator – completed his career at Baldwin in 2007.

Head coach Cody Nakamura enters his second year at the Kamehameha helm at the age of 27. Helle is 24 and defensive coordinator Trenson Himalaya is 26.

“They know what we’re going through,” Newton said. “They have been in our situation not too long ago, so they understand, but they also know what it takes to get better and push us as they do.”

Nakamura was suspended for one game last season after making contact with a Maui High player on the sidelines during a game. Kamehameha went 1-8 overall last year.

“Definitely I learned a lot (last year),” said Nakamura, a former tight end at Weber State who added that the program’s offseason training and thought process is similar to a college team’s. “Being brand new, straight out of college, hired as a head coach definitely was a great experience for the first year. One of the goals, of course, was just to learn, see how it works here.

“Up at Kamehameha Schools it is totally different, we have got a lot of administration to talk to. So that was a definite learning process, but I think I’ve got it down now and I know all that stuff now. Year two, the main focus is just to go out there and win.”

Kamehameha will be the only school in the league without a junior varsity team. The 51-player roster has 13 freshmen and 13 sophomores.

“It was definitely a tough call,” Nakamura said of canceling the JV season. “Just because the freshmen, the ones that haven’t developed yet, they aren’t going to be able to play very much, so we have got to get programs for them to try and get some experience and get them in the weight room. It’s almost like a redshirt program in college.”

The Warriors ranked fourth in the Maui Interscholastic League in offense last season. Newton’s passing accounted for 66.4 percent of the yardage.

The defense was last in the five-team league, surrendering 373.2 yards per game.

“We would like to go to states, that’s our main goal,” Newton said. “We just take one game at a time. Everyone is competitive around here and we feel we can be a team to push things.”

Senior wide receivers Joshua Hiwatashi and Keoni Keanini finished second and third in the MIL in receptions last season, combining for 63 catches, 924 yards and eight touchdowns.

“I would say we’re way better than last year,” Newton said of the trio. “We have way more chemistry with each other, so I know what they are going to do, they know what I’m going to do.”

Aaron Kokubun, a 6-3, 310-pound senior, is one of several linemen who will go both ways.

“I think we are going to play more physical than last year,” Kokubun said. “We are a young group with a lot of young guys, but the mentality is better to where we are going to play hard and we are going to do what we can with what we have got.”

Kokubun said being a senior brings a lot of responsibility.

“We just have to teach all (the young players) that we can be better than we are at this point, so when they are seniors they can be better than they ever dreamed of being,” he said. “That’s a huge weight on our shoulders, to just show them what’s right and what’s not, just set a great example on and off the field.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com