Posted with permission, article and pictures, courtesy of Bedrock Sports Hawaii
Story by: Nick Abramo
This started as a feature story about Kaimuki’s speedy and shifty running back Ofa Vehikite.
It will remain a feature about him, but new details have surfaced to also make this an injury update post. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, Vehikite, who hurt his elbow in the fourth quarter of last Saturday’s 41-32 loss to Kaimuki, is likely out for the rest of the season.
It turns out that Vehikite’s elbow is dislocated and the doctors say that a possible return to action is between four and six weeks away.
On Thursday, Kaimuki coach Reid Yoshikawa put it this way to Bedrock Sports Hawaii, “He’s out for the season. It’s such a blow to the team.”
Thursday night, Vehikite held out the possibility of returning for the playoffs.
“My arm is already feeling better,” he said on a phone call.
If you count forward from the day of the injury, the four-week mark is the day the two-week OIA playoffs start. Six weeks is when the three-week state tournament starts.
But a return will all depend on how well he heals.
“It’s time for other people to step up and shine” Vehikite said about his teammates. “I think I’ll be back for the playoffs. It’s a 50-50 chance.”
Vehikite has been a real sensation for Kaimuki (3-3, 3-2), which sits in fourth place in OIA Division II, right above the postseason cut line.
After not playing in the team’s first game, a 48-6 loss on Kauai to Waimea, he went on a tear, gaining more than 200 yards in each of the next four games and then going over the 100-yard mark in the loss to Kaiser last Saturday.
At 981 rushing yards, Vehikite was on the verge of going over 1,000.
What’s more is that his 240-yard effort in a 57-34 loss to Pearl City was 2 yards shy of Justin Paredes’ single-game rushing school record from 2007.
“The first time I met Ofa was the summer going into his junior year,” Yoshikawa said. “He was playing tag with kids during lunch break. At first, I thought he was just running through the hallways, not knowing he was playing tag with special needs autistic kids. He was letting them tag him and then running after them. It was a warm my heart kind of thing.”
After the COVID-canceled season of 2020, Vehikite played for the Bulldogs the COVID-delated 2021 season, taking the advice of coaches to switch to running back from wide receiver.
“Last year, he was hitting hole and not letting the blocks develop,” Yoshikawa said, “and he missed a few games with a concussion.”
After playing baseball last spring and hitting the weight room throughout the whole offseason, Vehikite was ready for his breakout year.
“He lifted steadily in March, April, May and was tested in June, when he, some linemen and (wide receiver) Jeremiah White were all squatting 400 pounds,” the coach added. “And by May, we had up to 23 guys lifting.”
The 5-foot-7 Vehikite gained heft, zooming to 177 pounds from his playing weight of about 150 when Yoshikawa first met him.
When the senior running back was down for more than 5 minutes on the field with his newly dislocated elbow Saturday, his mom Kalatiola, across the whole field and way up in the stands at Kaiser, yelled, “Ofa, talk to me!”
On Thursday, Vehikite said that the coaches told him to put his thumb up, but that he couldn’t. So, instead, a coach put his thumb up. Some huddled Kaiser players saw that and yelled toward the mom: ‘He says he’s OK!’ ”
Of course, Vehikite will continue to go to practice and games to support the rest of the Bulldogs, who have a huge matchup against first-place Nanakuli (5-1, 5-0) at the Roosevelt High field on Saturday.
“I’m still part of the team,” he said. “I don’t want to not show up and feel left out. I don’t want them to say, ‘You’re injured. You don’t have to go to practice.’ I’m going to keep going and showing the same effort that they show to me.”