Skyler Cabacungan and Lake Casco aren’t the biggest football players the Maui Interscholastic League has ever seen.They are, however, two of the most versatile.
Cabacungan, a 5-foot-5, 140-pound senior from Baldwin, is the choice of
the league’s coaches as MIL Offensive Player of the Year. Casco, a 5-9, 160-pound senior from Lahainaluna, is the MIL Defensive Player of the Year.
Cabacungan and Casco have more than size in common. Both were integral parts of their teams’ attacks and saw the field for most of the plays in any given game.
Cabacungan was the league’s leading scorer with 13 touchdowns – four rushing, seven receiving and two on kick returns – and 78 points.
Casco was third on the scoring list with 58 points on eight touchdowns, eight extra points and one two-point conversion. He scored five rushing touchdowns, two receiving, and one on a kick return in MIL play – and that was after not playing on offense in the final three games due to an ankle sprain.
Casco led the league with five interceptions to help bolster his defensive selection.
Last week, both players were named first-team all-state selections in the all-purpose category by the Honolulu Advertiser.
First-year Baldwin coach A.J. Roloos, who helped the Bears stretch their MIL-record unbeaten streak to 29-0-1 dating back to the 2004 season, was the choice of his peers as MIL Coach of the Year.
Cabacungan and Casco met on a play late in the Bears’ come-from-behind, 23-20 overtime win in their only meeting this season.
“It was fourth quarter, crunch time, I was running the ball and I just saw him,’’ Cabacungan said of Casco. “I tried to outrun him, but I just couldn’t because he just got on my back. He is fast.’’
Cabacungan sees several similarities between himself and Casco.
“I think our speed is similar,’’ Cabacungan said. “We both are specialists and both play offense and defense, but I don’t play as much defense. He is a great player.’’
The feeling is mutual.
“He is a great runner, he is really quick and elusive,’’ Casco said of Cabacungan. “He is hard to bring down and he has good vision. He is a really good player.’’
Cabacungan was forced into being the go-to guy for the Bears when 2006 all-state wide receiver Chase Nakamura, who had 20 touchdown catches in 12 games last season, missed the first six games this year with a knee injury.
“I had to step up for him and the team actually, so just working hard every day and just stepping into (Nakamura’s) spot and helping out the team,’’ Cabacungan said. “That was my goal.’’
Cabacungan made the first-team offense in one of three wide receiver spots – he tied for third in the league with 18 receptions for 272 yards, but also finished fourth on the rushing list with 342 yards on 39 carries. He also completed two of four passes, including one for a touchdown.
Cabacungan has an offer to play football at Montana-Western but is more likely to play college baseball – Nevada-Las Vegas is his first choice on the diamond. He is joined on the first team offense by Baldwin teammates Jordan Helle, who makes his second straight appearance as the quarterback; wide receiver-slotback Kalei Kamahele; and offensive linemen Sean Tesoro and Dylan Puaa.
Lahainaluna offensive linemen Chauncey Kaukau, Peter Lino and Kelvin Branco are joined on the first team by teammate Kailas McGhee, a running back.
King Kekaulike running back Mikey Douglas, the MIL rushing champion with 636 yards, and Maui High’s Mitchell Crim, the league’s leading receiver with 22 catches, round out the first team offense.
The Trojans’ Jordan Kahalekai-Bermoy and Casco are the utility players on the first team. Casco garnered two first-team spots for the second consecutive season.
Casco leads the first-team defense from his safety spot and is joined by teammates Joseph Lai and Simione Vehikite, both defensive linemen, linebacker Bryson Williams and defensive back Blaise Smith; Baldwin defensive linemen Mana Rosa and Troy Aoki; linebackers David Kaanana of Baldwin and Keloni Kamalani of Kamehameha; and Baldwin defensive backs Kainalu Garso and Mikie Webb.
For Casco, the defending state champion wrestler at 152 pounds, the MIL Defensive Player of the Year award is the culmination of a four-year varsity career. Lahainaluna coach Bobby Watson calls him a “coach on the field.’’
“It feels awesome, it has always been a goal of mine to be a player of the year in anything,’’ Casco said. “It is exciting.’’
Casco, who has a cumulative grade-point average of 3.9 with three Advanced Placement classes this year, has the University of Pennsylvania at the top of his list. He wants to play football there.
Until his ankle injury, he was on the field for nearly every play for the Lunas.
“Pretty much, besides kicking field goals sometimes,’’ Casco said. “I like whichever place I’m playing at the time. I’m at a loss of words kind of looking back on my football career here. I hope I did stuff that my family can be proud of me about. Hopefully I can take it to the next level.’’
Roloos said that both players have left an indelible mark on the MIL.
“Lake is a great athlete, he has been through all kinds of camps and he has been around for four years,’’ Roloos said. “He is just a great athlete, he covers tons of field because he has the speed. You don’t want to throw in his path because it is going to be hard to get the ball there. If you have three guys on him, then you can get the ball by him. Otherwise, it is tough. He is a great player.’’
On Cabacungan, Roloos said, “Skyler could have played quarterback for us if we needed. He could do everything for us. He was something special this year and he showed it on the field. He doesn’t talk in practice. He just leads by example and you see it on the field.’’