Aloha football turning things around with 'family'
Following two lackluster seasons that yielded just two combined wins, Aloha needed a mission statement change. "TAPE" was the Warriors' battle cry under coach Chris Casey during the golden age back when Thomas Tyner, Sheldon Prince, Brayden Kearsley and AJ McCollum took Aloha to a state championship. But current head coach Bill Volk could sense a sea change was needed, something that the current crop of Aloha players could rally around. Life for high school students looks a lot different than it did back from 2010-13. The community, culture and challenges around Aloha are altered and Volk wanted to create renewed excitement around his program.
Fun, attitude, men of character, integrity, love and "you" as in playing for the teammate next to you. These are the pillars upon which Volk wants the Warriors to build off; not wins and losses. Volk is more interested in turning his players into upstanding young men and preparing them for life after football. He wants to win, of course. But not at the expense of "Family." It's a motto that's brought the program closer together and unified this year's team collectively.
"I feel like we're back, like Aloha football has that winning attitude again," Volk said. "The passion is there, within me, within our kids. We feel more rejuvenated than we have in a long time. Not every program is perfect and over the past few years, my program has struggled. But I feel like this group of guys is bought into one another. They accept me as their head coach and accept themselves."
First and foremost, Aloha wants to maintain its 100 percent graduation rate and boost its overall team grade-point average. On the field, the Warriors want to make the 6A playoffs, an echelon Aloha hasn't reached since 2014.
"We have some talent that we feel can match anyone in this entire state when it comes to athleticism position by position," Volk said. "We have a lot to prove. We haven't accomplished much at all, honestly. We know we have work to do and we're still a young team. At the same time, we feel successful from where we've grown from."
A lot of Aloha's success on offense begins in the middle with senior center Sam Telesa. Telesa is a rarity in that, after this season, he'll be one of the few players to play all four years on the varsity level in the Metro League. Already he has more than 30 games of starting experience. He's a Division One prospect who's good enough to get recruited by the high majors and smart enough to generate interest from the Ivy League elites. Telesa has stuck it out through the rough times and is a true leader and captain for the Warriors.
"He's the nucleus of our cell," Volk said of Telesa. "He's led our team in every aspect, from fundraising, helping us in warmups and locker room demeanors."
A season ago, Aloha started six sophomores on offense and four started on defense. Junior quarterback Timmy Dennis took the job as a sophomore and got a number of starts under his belt in an honorable mention all-Metro campaign. All-purpose back/wide receiver/cornerback, Sir Charles Mitchell is a Swiss Army knife of versatility and swagger who brings the competitive juices in all three phases of the game. Mitchell was third-team all-Metro. Regan Wilson was honorable mention all-Metro at wide receiver and plays defensive back on the other side of the pigskin. Payton and Tanner Volk will contribute to both sides of the football after putting a lot of time in the offseason. Cesar Soto was an honorable mention All-Metro defensive back.
"Our juniors are as talented as any in the state of Oregon," Volk said. "We have some guys who I think will be a lot of fun, guys who come back like they're seasoned veterans but they're only juniors because of the learning lessons they had. Last year was a growing year for a lot of us. We've learned how to use these kids the right way and put them in position to be successful."
Sophomores Caleb and Kyle Moxley will play "pivotal" roles on the offensive and defensive line as will Jay Acuvera, who's made an immediate impression both on the players and the coaching staff.
"By the time it's all said and done, (Acuvera) will be one of the strongest players to ever come through Aloha High School," Volk said. "He's just a strong, strong kid in the weight room and he has what we call the 'Old Man' strength. He's a quiet leader and leads by dedication and hard work. Players gravitate toward him and he's very mature."
Senior wide receiver Koleman Moxley swung between junior varsity and varsity last season and Volk said he's expecting big things from the quiet leader who cares for his teammates and is coachable. Senior inside linebacker Elijah Vinzant earned honorable mention all-Metro defensive honors and will play tight end on offense.
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