Open Mic
Atwood, Hanohano-Baptista step up for the Mules

The Leilehua football team's formula for success in 2019 has been in the trenches.

Last Saturday in the Mules' 28-25 win over Iolani was no different.

Leilehua (7-1) showcased its defensive line depth in its most recent win as six different players had a hand in the team's seven total sacks.

Even though they were without one of their starting defensive lineman in 6-foot-2, 230-pound senior Jashawn Wakefield, the Mules were able to force Iolani quarterback Jonah Chong outside of the pocket all night long.

One of the key players that stepped up in Wakefield's absence was junior Kalani Atwood, who stands at 6-foot-3 and weighs 240 pounds. He had a hand in five total tackles, two of which were behind the line of scrimmage.

"Big dude made a bunch of plays," Leilehua coach Mark Kurisu said of Atwood. "If he didn't make the plays, he was causing some havoc."

Atwood made his presence felt early in the ball game.

After an interception derailed the Mules' opening drive, Iolani started its first series from the Leilehua 9-yard line. The Raiders advanced to the 1-yard line after three plays, but Atwood came up with the stop on running back Brock Hedani to force a turnover on downs at the 2-yard line.

Leilehua junior DL Kalani Atwood (44) stepped up in the trenches with senior starter Jashawn Wakefield sidelined. CJ Caraang | SL    Purchase image

Leilehua's offense rewarded the defense with the goal-line stand and scored on a 38-yard catch-and-run to take the lead, which the Mules held throughout the entire contest.

Another lineman that stepped up for Leilehua was senior Jaku Hanohano-Baptista. He may be undersized at 5-foot-9, but that didn't stop him from being a force against the Raiders.

After Iolani cut into Leilehua's lead to 14-7 in the second quarter, the Raiders were in a prime position to tie the game after Chong completed a 5-yard pass to Wailoa Manuel on first down to take them into Leilehua territory.

That's when Hanohano-Baptista came to life.

The Leilehua senior stuffed a run play for a 3-yard loss on second-and-5 and dropped Chong for a 9-yard loss on the following third down. The Mules put together a 60-yard drive on the ensuing series to go up 21-7 with 4:18 to play in the first half.

Both Atwood and Hanohano-Baptista also forced Chong into incomplete passes on the Raiders' final drive before Selau Aiava came down with the game-sealing interception in the end zone.

"Those are two perfect men who embody what a Leilehua Mules football player is: hard-working, discipline and focused on making the team better by contributing in whatever way possible," Kurisu said of Atwood and Hanohano-Baptista.

Leilehua wraps up regular season play on the road against Radford (0-7) next Saturday.

Reach Michael Lasquero at [email protected].



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