A Rock Of A Wide Receiver For Kailua: Senior Nainoa Smith-Akana
By: Nick Abramo
One of the top Hawaii high school football highlights circulating on social media this fall is a wide receiver’s jaunt up the left sideline of a football game.
That player is Nainoa Smith-Akana of the Kailua Surfriders and he appeared pretty close to indestructible in the video, eluding the first Radford tackler, peeling himself off of a second one, bashing off the next defender and then storming through at least four more before finally emerging to daylight for an 89-yard touchdown reception.
— Rob DeMello (@RobDeMelloKHON) September 30, 2022
When you talk to teammates and coaches, yes, that is a perfect summation of what Smith-Akana is all about on the football field — iron-willed and built to withstand the punishment.
“You can’t tackle him with one guy,” Surfriders coach Joe Wong told Hawaii Sports Radio Network. “Whether you’re a linebacker or a DB, they’re not going to get him alone. He’s strong and elusive and explosive and he knows when to turn on the jets.”
This is a day-of-reckoning week for the Kailua boys, who will play Aiea in the OIA Division I semifinals Saturday at the Radford field.
A victory in that one would put the Surfriders into the state tournament, a place where they have not been since the 2003 season.
And a win Saturday is not at all far-fetched. The last time the two teams met, on Sept. 10, Aiea won by a slim 13-7 margin.
“We’ve been talking about this since last season because we had a bad season,” Smith-Akana said. “Went 2-4 and we wanted to come out with a bang this season and show what we’re about in Kailua. A lot of people were telling us we were going to get smashed against Aiea last time because they were the No. 9 ranked team in the state. We came out and played our game and even though we lost, we showed that we aren’t a weak team like last year and that we can play with anybody.”
Coach Wong, the bull-like former NFL offensive lineman, naturally loves Smith-Akana’s toughness.
“There’s a reason why he is so hard to tackle,” Wong said. “He hits the weight room hard. He’s that guy. He’ll line up as a receiver, but we may use him on a jet sweep or a quick pass out of the backfield. Any way to get him the ball.”
A Saint Louis transfer, Smith-Akana is clearly a team-first player. When asked about his high school career highlight, he said, “Senior night, seeing all the boys on my team, smiling and having fun and winning the game against Roosevelt last week. We were down and we never gave up for the team, the coaches, fans in the stands, for the whole community.”
A more selfish player, perhaps, would have said his highlight was scoring the winning touchdown. And on the field, that is exactly what Smith-Akana did on a 23-yard post-route reception from Romeo Ortiz with 2:11 left for the 30-29 victory.
“We knew he was going to be open,” Wong said. “The whole staff knew that No. 5 (jersey) was going to be open. What a way to end your high school home career. Nine times out of 10, no 10 times out of 10, he gets open. He can catch the ball without seeing it sometimes. I don’t know how he does that.”
As far as the next level goes, Wong pictures the 5 foot 10, 190-pound Smith-Akana playing at a Division II or NAIA college and possibly even transferring up to D-I.
“Hawaii might even want him,” the coach said. “I think he would have a stellar career there if he stayed home.”
And that aforementioned run in which he refused to go down is not something out of the ordinary. He’s done it before and plans to do it again.
“I think of it as a sacrifice for my team to get those first downs, those big yardage plays,” Smith-Akana said. “It’s all really for my team and our goal to win a championship.”
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