Warriors willing themselves toward progress
The tide is going to turn for Aloha, it's just a matter of when.
Under the guidance of head coach Bill Volk, who's personally invested himself into seeing that the Warriors are not only successful on the field but off it as they prepare for life after football, Aloha is due for that breakout season that plants the Warriors back on the Metro's conscience.
It could be next year, when Aloha's current sophomore class that went 11-0 on the freshmen level physically and mentally matures into legitimate threats and current junior star Sam Telesa is headed into rarefied air as a four-year starter.
Or, as Volk and company would prefer, Aloha's advance might crop up this fall, in a league race that's wide open after Jesuit. The Warriors haven't reached the playoffs since 2014 and have won just six combined regular season games in the three years since. Yet, there's an abundant level of optimism that surrounds the Warriors, starting at the top with Volk who's the definition of a glass-half-full type of coach. His needed positivity permeates through a program that's fallen on hard luck, at times. 100 percent of Aloha's coaching staff comes back from a year ago. The climate is healthier and more conducive toward winning than it's been in the past. Volk said the trust between the coaches and players in the locker room is up and the players are putting in the hard work required to get the best of their personal abilities.
"We're embracing the grind," Volk said. "If we want to make the playoffs, get through daily doubles and battle in the fourth quarter of these games, you have to embrace the grind. That's a piece the coaches and players have bought into with our energy and attitude. They're coming together, having fun and enjoying being around each other. It's not easy, but everybody has a piece of the struggle. We're building a culture of being hard-nosed, tough and we're in this together and have each other's backs. I'm excited about where the season is headed. The energy and the buzz are up. We're getting there, if we're not there yet."
Telesa moved over from Oahu prior to his freshman season and immediately won over the Warrior coaching staff at center. He's started 22 games already during his Aloha tenure and played well enough on the camp circuit during the off-season to start warranting looks from a number of Division One schools. He's a player who wants to represent Aloha in the right way and help turn this team back in the right direction.
"He's a smart ball player and a smart young man," Volk said. "He's always been the younger guy on the line, so he's learned a lot the last couple of years. He's embracing his role as an upperclassman and helping some of the younger guys out. He's our anchor and we're going to try and utilize him at the point of attack."
Volk said Aloha has a voluminous amount of linemen around Telesa including guard Terrance Merrill, tackle Trey Hornbuckle and Jacob Savusa. Brandon Graham, Luke Harvey, James Ford, Brett Nicholson and Antonio Hernandez have all worked hard collectively.
"They're really built a brotherhood over the years," Volk said. "A lot of these guys have been a part of our program since youth (football). Our youth coaches did a great job with them and as they've trickled up to the high school level, they've stuck together, embraced their position and had that blue-collar, tough mentality. It's been fun to watch them get after each other in practice, but at the same time, as soon as that whistle blows they look each other, give each other a little head bump, slap hands and go to the back of the line."
Junior Zach McClintock and sophomore Timmy Dennis played junior varsity and freshmen ball respectively, last year and are competing for Aloha's starting quarterback job. Each signal caller creates a positive atmosphere for their offense to play in, Volk said, and both will most likely see time as the season unfolds.
"We have a two-headed monster and that's a good problem to have," Volk said. "They're both doing a great job and they're both weapons for us on the field."
Senior Gage Holman was a third-team all-Metro linebacker who will play at tight end. Holman offers a solid set of hands and the ability to block up front to whatever quarterback wins the starting job. Senior wide receivers Ismael Garcia and Adam Barrett are quick, fast and competitive, Volk said, and will start in the slot. Senior running back Dakota Vasquez has grown up in the Warrior program and should start in his final year at Aloha. Sophomore running back Sir Charles Mitchell and wide receivers Andre Ayo and Regan Wilson are part of that promising crew of sophomores who will play early and often.
Holman and Merrill headline a Warrior defense that wants to improve its play in the second half of each game, when the grind,
as Volk said, gets real. Garcia and Barrett start at cornerback while Vasquez helps out at linebacker. Telesa will play at defensive tackle at times, too.
Volk said Aloha's offensive and defensive lines are possibly the team's top-two strengths, along with the defense as a whole. In the third game of the season last year, the Warriors changed their offensive system from spread to a more traditional power rushing attack to better suit their personnel. The switch equated into more positive plays, bigger gains and extra competitive contests. With Telesa and company manning the trenches, that's a trend Volk hopes will continue.
"We want our offensive line to be the foundation of our football team and they've embraced that," Volk said.