BIIF eight-man football: Ka’u’s Echalas brought plenty of game in earning DPOY

  • Brandon Echalas played on offense for Ka‘u, but defense, specifically linebacker, is what he preferred and where he excelled. (PAM TAYLOR/Courtesy Photo)

Brandon Echalas’ nickname suggests that of a flashy offensive player, and a self-important one at that.

On the Ka’u football team, the senior is known as “Hollywood” because he likes to dress and look nice on the field, from his tucked-in jersey and cleanly combed hair all the way down to his shoes.

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“Everything has to be perfect,” Trojans coach DuWayne Ke said. “If it’s not perfect, he’s not happy.”

But don’t be fooled, Echalas has the attitude of a defensive player and during the BIIF eight-man football season he showed he clearly doesn’t mind getting down and dirty.

“Definitely not,” he said.

As for his attitude, he’s unassuming – consider the linebacker’s reaction Wednesday when he learned he’d been named BIIF Defensive Player of the Year, as selected by the Hawaii Tribune-Herald and West Hawaii Today.

“Really? … Wow,” he said. “What do I have to do?”

Nothing – his work is done here.

Because of the wide-open nature of eight-man, defenses have precious little room for error, so premiums are put on fundamentally sound players who can keep contain, execute assignments and tackle in space.

The Trojans were stout up front, defensive lineman Manu Kalua-Keliikoa and Keala Liu also made all-BIIF along with defensive back Zachary Kai, who doubled up, making all-league running back on offense as well.

Echalas, however, was the key man in the middle as the Trojans (5-1) won their third BIIF title in four seasons. Ka’u kept Pahoa standout Keala Harris in check in the championship game, allowing only 42 points during a five-game league winning streak.

“When we needed a stop, he got it,” Ke said. “We could count on him.”

Echalas also chipped in on offense, primarily at running back. In 2016, he made his first big mark for Ka’u when he stepped in at quarterback in the first half of the BIIF title game and set the tone for a win against Kohala.

But he prefers defense.

“It’s just more physical than offense,” Echalas said, “where you have to have a lot of skill.

“Defense is more about instinct.”

It didn’t always come naturally for Echalas, who started playing football as a seventh-grader with Pop Warner’s Ka’u Lions.

“I didn’t know how to play and we weren’t very good,” he said. “Back then it was just about having fun.”

The fun never stopped, but along the way the Trojans learned not just the game but how to win.

“It was all about team chemistry (this year) because most of us played on that Pop Warner team.

“It wasn’t just me. Everybody had a place and I trusted my teammates. The guys up front opened up lanes so I could see more.”

Also making all-BIIF were Pahoa defensive lineman Josiah Waiolama, linebacker Kai Martin and defensive back Harris – the co-Offensive Player of the Year – and Kohala’s Dayten James-Foree, a linebacker and Augie Skelton, a defensive back.

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Ke is the Coach of the Year, and Echalas gave special recognition to Trojans defensive coordinator Daryl Shibuya.

“He pushed me into doing good in school and in football.”