Like most offensive linemen, Waiakea senior Alika Matias enjoys flattening someone on the football field — one effective way to move the chains in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation.
Ball control and time of possession would come in quite handy for the Warriors, who finished with a 3-4 record last season and lost the bulk of their defense. Senior linebacker Taz Preston (5 feet, 10 inches and 185 pounds) is the only returning starter.
Waiakea will count on Matias (6-2, 240 pounds) to open holes for junior running back Devin Preston, Taz’s brother, and provide protection for quarterback Kayed Rodrigues, the appointed starter with Kean Wong concentrating on baseball. Wong has a baseball scholarship to Hawaii.
“We’ll really need them,” Waiakea coach Fred Lau said of his linebacker and offensive tackle. “Alika is nimble and quick on his feet. He’s got very good technique. He’s not really heavy, but just his technique will help him out. He holds his ground well and has got really good feet. He gets in the best position he needs to be in.
“Taz is tenacious and reads really well and covers all over the field. Last year, he would go for broke. He would go head-on, go through the block to make the tackle. Now, he’s getting away from the block. He’s harder to block, and he’s using his technique as a linebacker.”
Matias spent his summer lifting weights, hoping his good work on the gridiron will net him a scholarship.
He didn’t go to any camps over the summer, but had his video highlights uploaded on YouTube by sportzviz.com, run by Thane Milhoan. Preston went to the All-Poly camp on Oahu.
“I’m hoping to get a college scholarship and play at the next level,” said Matias, who has a 3.0 grade point average. “I feel it would be a big break to finally get something that I worked for, and it paid off.
“My greatest satisfaction is having something pay off that I worked for, like the team winning or scoring a touchdown. I do get satisfaction from a pancake or a successful block. But the main goal is we all get to the end zone.”
The Warriors are looking to run pro set, spread and pistol formations with Rodrigues behind the wheel. He wrestled and placed third in the BIIF championships at 189 pounds, so he’s familiar with hard knocks.
“That guy’s tough,” Lau said. “We tell him it’s not wrestling and he has to get out of bounds. But he’s tough and a good QB. Besides toughness, he plays quarterback really well. He’s got a very good arm, has pretty good decision-making and makes his reads in succession, looking for the primary and then he’ll go to his second or third option.”
When the other team gets the ball, Preston understands the best way to get the pigskin back.
One efficient way is to force a turnover. Third and long is nice, too. Everything is about anticipating and making plays — something Preston enjoys.
“I like hitting. The linebacker leads the defense,” he said. “I like to be a leader, play with my friends and represent my school. In the beginning of games, I go with it and get used to playing and seeing and knowing what will happen. My coaches tell me to never think, just react. It’s just fun, being part of a team and playing.”
That discipline on the field also translates to the classroom. He’s carrying a 3.8 GPA. Like Matias, he’s aiming for a football scholarship and aspires to become a firefighter someday.
“I do my work in the class when I’m supposed to,” he said. “My whole life I did that. It’s a pattern now, I guess. I like getting good grades. In case sports doesn’t work out, I can fall back on academics.”
Likewise, Matias is mindful that football is more than tackling or plowing some defender out of his shoes.
“It gives me something to look forward to. When I get up in the morning, it’s ‘Ah, I got school.’ But I think, I’ve got football later,” he said. “I wouldn’t be the person I am if I didn’t play football. It’s taught me to understand each other and work well together.
“It’s also about commitment, passion and dependability. You also need to rely on the guy next to you so the play can come together. Each one of us has our own assignments. It’s like real life. If I’m lazy, I can’t have someone do all my work for me. You do what you have to do to come together.”