Waiakea senior two-way lineman Moses Mackwelung stands out for all the right reasons, especially with his team-first thinking.
Last season, Mackwelung didn’t receive any notice on the All-Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division I team. But he still made his presence felt.
“He’s a good athlete, works hard and gets good grades,” coach Moku Rita said. “He leads by example. He’s soft-spoken and his skills are pretty good. He’s a big kid and can plug holes on defense, and he’s a good blocker at guard.”
Mackwelung is 5 feet, 11 inches tall and weighs 260 pounds, decent size for BIIF football, but he was too big for Pop Warner. Instead, he joined rugby at 13 years old, playing a hard-nosed contact sport where weight limits are thrown out the window.
In the state championship in June at Malama Park, his Hilo Reign Under 19 team faced the Kahuku Red Raiders — all holdovers from the North Shore school’s football program.
Much like football, the physically imposing Red Raiders controlled the ball, time of possession and prevailed 14-0. At least for consolation, Mackwelung got a taxing workout because the Reign played another game earlier, and had only 20 minutes of rest.
“Rugby helped me be more aggressive and my cardio,” he said. “If I can get a scholarship from rugby I’d take it. My goal is to get a scholarship for college.
“I’m looking at UNLV and a Division III school in Chicago. I put a profile on ncsasports.org and have sportsviz (with Thane Milhoan). I’d like to major in criminal justice and become a cop in Vegas. I’ve got a lot of family in Vegas.”
During the summer, the hard work was nonstop for Mackwelung, who carries a 3.5 grade point average. He did conditioning drills, lifted weights and changed his diet.
“I’m more knowledgeable about the game,” he said. “I like offensive guard. That’s where the most action is for me. Every play you’re hitting. I like pulling, going downhill and cracking anybody in the way.
“On offense, we want to pound the ball, and throw deep when we get a chance. But we want to pound the ball in the trenches. At defensive tackle, I have to plug gaps and try to get sacks.”
The last time Waiakea took home a BIIF championship was in 2001.
All it takes is a two-game winning streak: a BIIF semifinal victory and another for the championship.
Whether the Warriors can weather the loss of 22 seniors remains to be seen. But they have a solid foundation in place.
“We’ve got a good coaching staff,” Mackwelung said. “There’s a lot of respect and you can see it. The players respect the coaches and the coaches respect the players.”