Catch Aloha's offense if you can.
If you're a football fan, the Warriors' explosive, velvety smooth playmakers and triggerman Timmy Dennis are worth the price of admission. If you're a defensive coordinator in the Metro League, good luck trying to stop all of these weapons.
So far, through three non-league games, no defense has come close.
With Dennis at quarterback, Sir Charles Mitchell, Tanner and Payton Volk and Regan Wilson out wide wreaking havoc as playmakers, Aloha piled up 48 points and more than 480 yards of total offense to fend off a comparably high flying David Douglas offense and a litany of penalties in a 48-39 win at Aloha High School on Sept. 20. Aloha, a year after reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2013, is 3-0 to begin the season. The schedule gets much tougher beginning next week with Jesuit and the rest of the Metro League after that. But behind this full functioning, fully thriving offense, the Warriors must be accounted for.
"With all the weapons we have, we want to be the top offense in the state," Dennis said. "I feel we have the best receiver in the state in (Wilson), the best slot in the state in (Mitchell). They're all so versatile. One game it might be (Wilson), the next it could be (Mitchell). This game wasn't pretty. I still feel like we haven't hit our full potential. I can't wait to see us get there because when we do it's going to be crazy."
It was an old fashioned, air-it-out shootout with both teams exchanging haymaking scoring drives back and forth, the sort of game where offenses reigned from start to finish. For all of the Warriors' weaponry, David Douglas (1-2 overall) came to the Westside with its own cache of dynamos. Quarterback Dakota Lohmeier distributed the football accurately and decisively to Jermain Robinson (two touchdown catches) and Jaylen Harris (one touchdown catch) on the outside, both of whom were mismatches in the passing game all night. Jaden Poulshock and Tre'Von Shepard had their way on the ground, executing new head coach Cal Szueber's double-wing offense to perfection.
Seven of the Warriors' eight first half drives ended with touchdowns, a field goal or inside the red zone with an interception and a turnover on downs before the half mixed in. In laymen's terms, the Warriors moved the ball at will, mostly through the air where Dennis linked up with the Volk brothers, Wilson, Mitchell and company for huge chunk plays in the passing game. Some of Aloha's offensive success was set up by sound special teams. Lengthy punt returns by senior Alex Reid and Wilson gave Aloha short fields to work with. After a 40-yard return by Wilson, Dennis found Volk down the left sideline on a go route, and dropped a beautifully thrown ball down the rail where Volk didn't have to break stride as he reeled in the rock and hit the end zone to go up 19-7. And after Reid gashed the Scots with a special team slash, Dennis hit Wilson on a fourth and goal jump ball touchdown that gave the Warriors their biggest lead of the game, 26-7, with 8:24 left in the second quarter. But credit the Scots, who didn't tap out of the stranglehold. David Douglas turned prime field position into a five-yard touchdown run by Poulshock. And on Aloha's next offensive play, James Hamann picked off a tipped ball over the middle. Four plays later Lohmeier threw a 16-yard alley-oop touchdown to Harris and suddenly the game was on as the Scots closed within 26-21 with 4:22 left in the half. Aloha led 29-21 at the half after a 37-yard Roman Rios-Sturm field goal.
The second half was nip and tuck. Trailing Aloha 42-31 in the fourth, Robinson had a 17-yard catch-and-stretch across the pylon touchdown from Lohmeier, then Lohmeier called his own number and bashed in the two-point try to bring the Scots within 42-39 with 7:58 left in the fourth.
But, Mitchell, who moved around from slot receiver to cornerback, shifted to running back on the subsequent drive and went to work, ripping off runs of 21,18, 8 and 2 yards to drive Aloha inside the red zone. Then Dennis faked a handoff to Mitchell and fired an eye-high rope to Wilson who caught the ball at the one-yard and waltzed into the end zone for another six to extend Aloha's lead to 48-39 with 5:21 left. It was a game-defining drive, one where Aloha didn't have to rely on the passing game so heavily. Instead, it put the contest's outcome in the hands of its offensive line: senior Caleb Soderback-Jones, junior Anthony Gayhart, senior Ethan Kennedy, senior Jay Acuavera and junior Vidal Cruz-Luna who helped pave the way for Mitchell. After putting their foot on the gas pedal all night, the Warriors finally wore the Scots down with their hogs in the trenches.
"They've been amazing this year," Dennis said of his offensive line. "I'm so proud of them. They've gotten a lot of hate around the league because of their size, but they fight hard. David Douglas had some big boys upfront and our goal was to tire them out by the end of the game. I feel like it worked. We were just gassing them, gassing them on run plays."
"It all starts with the line," Volk said.
And while David Douglas raced the pigskin back down the gridiron to the Warrior 12, Aloha cornerback Adrian Mashia retreated with Robinson in the right corner of the end zone, climbed the invisible ladder in front of the lanky Scot and picked the ball in the end zone for the game-sealing interception with two and a half minutes left.
"It was stressful, but our defense came in clutch when we needed them," Dennis said. "I'm proud of our defense. Without them, the game would've gotten out of hand with the penalties and turnovers we had."
For Aloha, the 48-point total was its lowest of the season as the Warriors are among the state's leaders in points scored (165) through three games. Finally all healthy at the same time, at last, all on the same page and clicking in their second year operating out of a breakneck spread offense that tries to get a play off every 10 seconds, Aloha has teams on its heels right now. Dennis (six touchdowns against David Douglas) is a three-year starter whose flat-line demeanor and slingshot right arm is tailor-made for the shots Aloha wants to take deep downfield. He's seeing the game at a coach-like level.
"The game has slowed down for me so much, just from understanding the offense, learning how to understand defenses," Dennis said. "My receivers and linemen keep getting smarter learning the offense, knowing what adjustments to make."
Wilson (three touchdown catches) is a monster on the outside, capable of going up top for a deep ball or taking a pass underneath. Mitchell (two total touchdowns) is pure excitement with the ball in his hands. He's quick and shifty, but strong enough to break through arm tackles and downright electric when given the slightest sliver of space. The Volks are speedy with great hands, but consistent, as you'd expect the sons of head coach Bill Volk to be. Each of the brothers had a touchdown catch in the first half from Dennis.
"I don't think people know how deadly this team can be," Dennis said. "We're going to shock the state."
These Warriors are part of a senior core that won a youth championship as eighth-graders, started as sophomores at the varsity level and helped Aloha back to the 6A playoffs last season. They've weathered their fair share of adversity from transfers to crosstown schools, to their teammates being recruited right out from under them to selfish, me-first comrades who took away from the team concept. But through the tribulations, a brotherhood has been forged. While others left, guys like Mitchell and Wilson stayed, loyal to the Warrior soil. It's a dedication that's been rewarded early on. And it's bigger than football, too. There hasn't been a theft in the Aloha locker room in five years, Volk said. The team's GPA is up across the board as teammates are helping each other on the field and in the classroom. Deserters be damned, Aloha's tribal mentality has remained.
"We treat each other like we're family," Volk said. "The people who leave are going to have their ups and downs, but they're not a part of our family anymore. You betrayed family, so we just keep moving. (Reid) broke his collarbone today, so the next man has to step up. Hopefully, people are learning and listening and paying attention more."
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