Star-Advertiser: ‘Waianae’s Kana’i Mauga’

Kana‘i Mauga

The following are excerpts from Paul Honda’s “For Waianae’s Kana’i Mauga, There’s No Mountain High Enough” (Star-Advertiser, 7 Nov. 2017).

The path to the top is not for everyone…the degree of difficulty varies. [Kana’i] Mauga, a hybrid linebacker with a 3.2 grade-point average and a commitment to USC, prefers the toughest challenge.

“It’s really steep. I always go all the way to the top,” Mauga said. “I like trying to climb mountains whenever I have time. During the summer, I’ll go to different spots on the west side with my friends, or if nobody’s available I just go by myself.”

After an 0-3 start, Waianae came through. The Seariders went on a six-game win streak, lost in the OIA semifinals to Mililani and, over the weekend, earned a 29-21 overtime win over Campbell to seal a spot in the Open Division state tournament.

“He’s been a role model of a senior leader,” Waianae head coach Walter Young said. “He shows up to the workout sessions and gives his all, and motivates and encourages his teammates to do the same. He has a football IQ that is beyond his years, and he has the ability to do more than just his job. He’s an incredible playmaker.”

Waianae (7-4) faces league champion Kahuku in the semifinal round of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA State Championships on Friday at Aloha Stadium.

“We have to do our right assignments, get aligned right and execute,” Mauga said. “Anything can happen. It was rough in the beginning of the season. For everyone to show up these past two games, bouncing back from that loss to Mililani, it’s a big accomplishment for the whole team. This win over Campbell is going to boost their confidence as a team and individuals.”

Mauga, at 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, handles battles with linemen and slotbacks with success.

Oregon State became the first university to offer a scholarship to Mauga. He is now up to 13 offers, though he committed to USC in June.

Moanalua coach Savaii Eselu believes Mauga will be a factor in the Pac-12 Conference.

“He reminds me of Manti (Te‘o). He and Kana‘i don’t waste steps,” Eselu said. “He’s taller than I thought. I thought we could get some passes over him and we got bit real bad, a pick-6.”

The tradition of elite defensive talent from Waianae is illustrious, going back to George “Oki” Kauwalu to Nate Jackson to Chris Paogofie and beyond.

“He exemplifies what Waianae defense has always been,” Campbell coach Darren Johnson said. “He’s so talented like Roland and Joey Maneafaiga. Taulia Lave. He’s in those guys’ class. You can rank him as high as Lafi Siliga.”

Coming from Waianae means almost everything.

“I don’t think I would change anything. I actually learned a lot, people saying that over here is a ghetto and poor. I just wanted to see for myself, to experience what other people think about it. Honestly, it’s not. People are not poor. They’re rich in personality and they have a good mind-set of living here, and they love it here,” Mauga said. “They appreciate everything that’s been given to them.”

Mauga’s academic and athletic talents have opened doors. His father, Ivan Mauga, played at the University of Hawaii.

“He always says, ‘Play hard. Do what you do best. Ball out,’ ” Mauga said. “And I love you.”

For the full article, log in to the Star-Advertiser.

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