New coach Timmy Chang, Warriors trying to reconnect with next group of Hawaii high school football recruits

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Feb. 28—When John-Keawe Sagapolutele got a text with a phone number to call University of Hawaii offensive coordinator Ian Shoemaker, he felt pretty good about what was going to happen next.

"I kind of knew it was going to happen, but to hear him say it was amazing, " the Punahou junior quarterback said.

Sagapolutele was one of at least 10 local players who received a scholarship offer to the University of Hawaii during a 24-hour period a week after signing day earlier this month.

New UH football coach Timmy Chang has wasted little time trying to cultivate relationships with the next group of high school football recruits in the islands.

Using the 'Braddahood' hashtag to drum up excitement on social media, UH went all-in on its recruitment of local players just three weeks after Chang was hired to replace Todd Graham.

One after another, the top juniors in the state started sharing on social media they had been offered by the hometown school on a random Friday afternoon.

The Star-Advertiser's updated list of scholarship offers features 14 juniors, a sophomore and two freshmen—Mililani defensive back Aiden Manutai and Punahou offensive lineman Kawika Hallums—already with an offer to attend UH.

By contrast, only 11 players total from the current senior class signed letters of intent with Division I programs.

"I knew it was big especially for the local boys, " Mililani junior Gavin Hunter said of Chang's hiring. "I knew it was a step in the right direction for sure."

Hunter, the son of former UH cornerback Al Hunter, had talked with the previous coaching staff but didn't receive an offer until three weeks after Chang's hiring.

A wide receiver and defensive back for the Trojans, Gavin Hunter made the Star-Advertiser All-State second team as a defensive back and third team as a utility player.

He had already received offers from Arizona and San Diego State when he finally got the call from UH.

"It was one afternoon after school, I went to the chiropractor and then I came out and the UH defensive coordinator (Jacob Yoro ) hit me up on Twitter and asked me for my number so I gave it to him and he said he was going to give me a call, " Hunter said. "I think I was the first or second one to be offered (that day ) and then after I posted it (on social media ) I kept checking and more and more boys were getting offered."

At least 10 players from Hawaii announced their offers on social media, including Kahuku safety Brock Fonoimoana, who holds offers from eight schools, including Stanford, Virginia, Utah and Brigham Young, and Kapaa linebacker Solomone Malafu, who made the Star-Advertiser All-State first team after a dominant performance in the state tournament.

Malafu has also been offered by Arizona, Arizona State, Utah and Utah State.

Sagapolutele is the first high school quarterback from Hawaii to receive a scholarship offer from Chang, who still holds Hawaii's single-season passing yardage record with 3, 985 yard and 64 touchdowns in 1999, when he guided Saint Louis to the inaugural state championship.

The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Sagapolutele was only able to play five games during the ILH's shortened season this past year after missing all of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I was just so fortunate that I was able to play my freshman year and I had film for that season, " said Sagapolutele, who threw for 2, 068 yards and 16 touchdowns as a ninth-grader. "I was just so thankful and excited that I was able to get my first offer because it was something that is a relief for my parents knowing they don't have to pay for schooling at the next level. They were just really happy and proud of me."