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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Wilsons provide Wai'anae with rock-solid foundation

Brothers Puletua, James and Eleu bring their family values to the football field

By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer

WAI'ANAE — They come in different shapes and sizes, and offer different skill sets.

But make no mistake, the Wai'anae High School football team's Puletua, James and Eleu Wilson are blood brothers, true and true.

"Family is first," said Puletua, a 6-foot, 170-pound junior quarterback. "In the long run, your family is always going to be there for you, even if your friends might not."

The Wilson brothers — twin juniors Puletua and James, and senior Eleu — have been there for each other and for their Searider teammates throughout this season. Their contributions have helped Wai'anae, ranked No. 8 in The Advertiser's statewide Top 10 poll of coaches and media, to a 4-3 overall record and a 4-1 mark in the O'ahu Interscholastic Association heading into Friday's Red Conference Western Division showdown at No. 5 Mililani (6-1, 4-1).

A victory would give the Seariders at least a share of the West title, and a win coupled with a Waipahu (3-4, 1-4) upset of No. 7 Leilehua (5-2, 4-1) would secure the West's No. 1 seed for Wai'anae in the upcoming league playoffs.

"We can do it if we stick together and keep everything straight," said James, a 5-9, 145-pound running back.

The Seariders defense should get a big boost with the return of Eleu, a 6-1, 315-pound nose guard/tackle. He sat out last Friday's 35-20 victory at Waipahu, after missing a couple practices earlier in the week due to illness.

The Marauders took advantage of his absence by rushing for 335 yards, including 207 on 29 carries by fullback Victor Moananu.

"I think it would have made a difference (if Eleu played)," said Wai'anae coach Danny Matsumoto. "He adds a lot of beef to our line."

Puletua and James certainly did their part on offense.

Puletua completed 5 of 9 passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns, and added 54 yards rushing on six carries. That brings his season totals to 60 completions in 116 attempts, for 1,065 yards and 12 TDs, with six interceptions.

Puletua ranks fourth in the state with a pass efficiency rating of 152.6, and 10th in rushing with 374 yards and four touchdowns on 58 carries (6.4 ypc).

"He's really good at getting the ball off before the rush, and he adds something with his feet," Matsumoto said.

James had 42 yards rushing on eight carries against Waipahu, including a 15-yard TD run that helped the Seariders take a 28-14 lead with 1:56 left in the third quarter.

"He has the speed to get outside and cut up the field," Matsumoto said. "He's also helped us with punt returns."

Even Eleu has contributed on offense, coming in at fullback and scoring on a pair of short touchdown runs in a victory over Campbell.

But as valuable as their on-field performance has been, perhaps just as valuable is the Wilsons' example of stability as brothers.

"They're good kids, and they work hard," Matsumoto said.

The brothers said Wai'anae football is in their blood, since dad Eliu was an all-star running back for the Seariders in the mid-1970s and older brother Brian DeMello also suited up for the red, white and blue in the late 1990s. Younger brother Makoa Wilson, a freshman, plays on Wai'anae's JV team.

"Our dad taught us the sport, how to run and tackle, but he also taught us about Wai'anae football," Eleu said. "He said it's about having good discipline, respect ... having pride in your school."

And the key to the Seariders' success so far?

"The team connected as a family," Eleu said. "It's a brotherhood."

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