HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - After spending nearly a month on Oahu, the Hawaiian football experience for the boys of Fagaitua High School (Faga'itua, American Samoa) comes to an end in Aloha Stadium on Friday night, as the Viking's open their regular season against the Crusaders of Saint Louis School.
Fagaitua coach Suaese Ta'ase and his team have called Kapolei High School home for most of their stay in the islands, an excursion that cost nearly $125,000 dollars and took years of fundraising before being approved. In addition to regular practices, Ta'ase and the Vikings have scrimmaged against the pass-happy offenses of Mililani and Campbell, providing a unique challenge for a run-first program that recently featured Tampa Bay Buccaneers fullback Joey Iosefa, a University of Hawaii alum.
Those scrimmages have done more than provide the Vikings new ways to incorporate the passing game into their offense; they've given Fagaitua game-speed experience against an offensive system they'll see plenty of on Friday night. Saint Louis quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, already one of the top-ranked quarterbacks in the country despite only entering his junior season, will lead the Crusaders in what they hope is the beginning of a state championship season.
As a sophomore, Tagovailoa won the starting job in Kalaepohaku after a position battle with an upperclassman. Though he's still young, Crusaders coach Cal Lee says there is little doubt Tagovailoa has earned his teammates' respect.
"I think he has leadership ability not only in the way he performs, but he's a vocal (leader)," Lee said. "He's not afraid to talk, and there's nothing wrong with that. You perform, but you can talk as well, and he's a leader even though he's only a junior."
Lee says that Tagovailoa entered the Crusaders summer program with the mentality that he was still fighting for a job.
"This year, he's just taken it to a whole new level," Lee said. "He's coming out, working hard, like he's trying to be the starter, you know?"
Defensively, the young Crusaders core is led by outside linebacker Jordan Iosefa, a senior who has already committed to play at USC next year.
"We're really untested. We've got a couple players that have ability, but they haven't played yet," Lee said. "It'll all come out Friday night."