Aofaga Wily jogged onto the Aloha Stadium turf like he was sauntering into a park for a picnic.
But this was no picnic.
This was fourth and goal from the 1 in the OIA Red football semifinals against Leilehua on Friday night. Score knotted at 7.
It was after a timeout. Big pressure.
No big deal for Wily, who chugged behind the big Kahuku linemen and pushed into the end zone for what turned out to be the winning touchdown.
"All I was thinking was don't give up," Wily said while clutching the game MVP trophy. "Just depend on the people in front of me."
That kind of trust is what the 6-foot, 202-pound running back has given to his blockers in three years of piling up prolific rushing yardage.
The soft-spoken and bright-eyed Wily passed Hawaii icon Mosi Tatupu of Punahou and Saint Louis' Pesafea Fiaseu for fourth all-time in the state in rushing yardage. With Friday's OIA final against Mililani and the state tournament remaining, he sits at 3,717 yards and is aiming to pass Damien's Kama Bailey (3,930) and Kahuku's own Mark Atuaia (4,146) into second place.
Passing ‘Iolani's Joe Igber, No. 1 on the list at 4,428, will be a much harder task.
"Nah!" Wily said emphatically at practice last week, when asked if he thought it was important to pass Atuaia for the school record. "To me, stats don't really mean much. It's about getting the ‘W.' "
He'll be fine looking up to Atuaia and at his stats.
"Mark has been an inspiration and a role model as a running back," Wily said. "He has kept me motivated, and it's great to know that he was one of the best running backs in the state."
Atuaia, who is the assistant athletic director at Brigham Young in Provo, Utah, and a family friend from Laie, has known Wily since he was born.
"There are some similarities between the two of us," Atuaia said in a phone interview. "We both started as sophomores and learned to get all the kinks out of the way then. And both of us have watched the team from the bench in the fourth quarter of (lopsided) games.
"These are great accomplishments for him and I hope he uses this to propel him forward and get a good education."
Wily would love to play college football, but not before going on his two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"He can run at the next level, for sure," Kahuku head coach Reggie Torres said. "He can make an impact at any Division I school."
Hawaii, Arizona, Brigham Young and Washington have been actively recruiting Wily, whose running style Torres likened to former NFL great Marcus Allen.
"He's a smooth runner, so graceful," Torres said. "He glides."
But not everything has been smooth for Wily.
"One time (as an underclassman), we ran a stretch play and I saw the biggest hole I've ever seen. I got so excited and I thought I had a touchdown, but I gribbled (fell) and people were cracking up in the stands."
Another undeniable attribute is Wily's toughness. What other running back carries the ball 41 times in a game? Wily did it for 190 yards in Friday's 14-7 win over Leilehua.
He appeared out of gas in the huddle after rushing attempt No. 38, when the Red Raiders were trying to run out the clock, but he wasn't about to sit.
"No matter what the score is, I keep fighting," said Wily, who likes the smash-mouth game Kahuku plays but has also been clocked at 4.5 in the 40-yard dash. "Even if we were losing 100 to nothing, I would still be pushing. Giving up is not an option. I expect to get the ball and push on."
Torres especially loves Wily's toughness in the clutch.
"On our winning drive (in the OIA quarterfinals against Waianae), he ran it eight times out of the 12 plays," Torres said. "He gets big yards and makes big plays in the playoffs (175 against Waianae; 180 vs. Punahou in the state final a year ago) .
"He's a good athlete with a great work ethic," Torres said. "He's a great person and does great at school. Everything he does, he's great at."
Aofaga's older brothers, Micah and Josh, played for Kahuku's state championship team in 2005, and his younger brother, Salanoa-Alo, is a sophomore running back at Kamehameha.
Aofaga Wily has 41 career touchdowns in 29 games and has averaged 6.3 yards per carry. He helped the Red Raiders to a state title as a junior and is looking to add a second one.
But none of those accomplishments is the most memorable to Wily. Instead, he'll always remember what happened in 2010, when undefeated Kahuku forfeited the OIA title game because of eligibility questions and lost a chance to play in the state tournament.
"My sophomore year was tragic, especially for the seniors," he said. "But it showed everyone around the world how strong our community is. There were boycotts and people went out and found lawyers. What happened to us was bad, but it was a blessing how everyone came together for our North Shore high school. It really showed us how much we all love each other."HAWAII’S ALL-TIME RUSHING LEADERS
|Joe Igber, ‘Iolani||1996-98||30||651||4,428||6.8||147.6||56|
|Mark Atuaia, Kahuku||1988-90||29||527||4,146||7.9||143.0||51|
|Kama Bailey, Damien||2005-07||31||540||3,830||7.3||126.7||39|
|Aofaga Wily, Kahuku||2010-12||29||593||3,717||6.3||128.2||41|
|Mosi Tatupu, Punahou||1971-73||26||505||3,580||7.1||137.7||36|
|Pesefea Fiaseu, Saint Louis||1998-00||38||397||3,543||8.9||93.2||51|