Navy's Senior Quarterbacks Ready for Home Send-off

Navy's Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada will start for the first time since Sept. 27. It's his final home game, and his parents will be in the stands.
Navy's Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada will start for the first time since Sept. 27. It's his final home game, and his parents will be in the stands. (By Chuck Burton -- Associated Press)
  Enlarge Photo    
By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 31, 2008

Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada was bundled up for practice on a chilly, windy Wednesday afternoon. The senior quarterback from Hawaii wore a dark balaclava under his gold Navy helmet, a long-sleeved shirt under his practice jersey and baggy blue sweatpants over his pads.

But at least he was able to move around the field. Jarod Bryant, another senior quarterback, was forced to stand and watch in the cold, as he rested a sprained right shoulder.

"Oh man, practice is about 10 times longer when you're not out there," Bryant said with a sigh. "Senior year is kind of the worst time to get hurt."

Both Kaheaku-Enhada and Bryant have come to understand that this fall: Kaheaku-Enhada has been stymied by a strained left hamstring since the preseason, and Bryant injured his shoulder on Saturday against Southern Methodist. (Incidentally, the third senior quarterback on Navy's roster, Joe Taylor, has been sidelined nearly the entire season with a knee injury.)

Said Bryant, "Option quarterbacks, it's not easy for us to stay healthy." Said Kaheaku-Enhada, "I think we're just getting old, you know?"

But Bryant and Kaheaku-Enhada are determined to be on the field in some capacity tomorrow afternoon when Navy hosts Temple, because it will be their last game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Bryant is planning to fill his usual role as the holder on extra points and field goals, while Kaheaku-Enhada is expected to make his fourth start of the season, his first since Sept. 27, when he re-injured his hamstring at Wake Forest.

Coach Ken Niumatalolo said last week he was taking a cautious approach with Kaheaku-Enhada and indicated the quarterback might not return until Nov. 15, when Navy faces Notre Dame. But Kaheaku-Enhada has extra incentive to play this week: His mother and father, who have attended three previous games between them, are flying in from Hawaii. Kaheaku-Enhada hasn't seen them since Christmas.

"It's pretty big for me, especially because I didn't play much this year," said Kaheaku-Enhada, who has missed three home games plus the Air Force game. "I've got my parents coming in, and I kind of want to play for them."

With a win tomorrow, Navy will become bowl-eligible for the sixth straight year; that will mean a spot in the inaugural EagleBank Bowl, which will be held Dec. 20 at RFK Stadium. Despite a difficult schedule, the Midshipmen fully expected to be in this position at the start of the season -- but they didn't count on having to use so many quarterbacks to do so.

Saturday's win over SMU marked the third time that Navy had to replace its quarterback in the first half because of injury; sophomore Ricky Dobbs, the third-string signal-caller, took over for Bryant and rushed for 224 yards and four touchdowns in a 34-7 win. Bryant, Kaheaku-Enhada and Dobbs each have led Navy to victory.

"We don't have any doubts about their skills," senior center Ricky Moore said of the team's quarterbacks. "The training they go through, the experiences they share with Coach [Ivin] Jasper -- we know that they're going to come in and execute as long as we make the blocks. There's kind of a mind-set that everyone does their own job. Coach Niumat emphasizes this. As long as we're able to fulfill our duties, we're confident that the quarterbacks are going to do their jobs too."

Bryant also credits Jasper, the offensive coordinator, with helping the offense weather the constant shuffling under center. Jasper was a quarterback and slotback in the triple-option offense at the University of Hawaii, "so he knows what it takes," Bryant said.

Kaheaku-Enhada points to the triple-option offense itself.

"It's a simple offense. There's no secret to what we're going to do, and we're going to do the same thing, regardless of who's in," he said. "We got one person, our fullback, that does the work, and all we need is for someone to run the ball in."

But there's also a sense that when someone goes down, someone else needs to step up.

"When we see someone go down that's been playing well, everyone wants to help out," Kaheaku-Enhada said. "They feel like hey, we really need to help this kid out, let's step our game up and compensate for the loss of somebody else that's been playing for a while. I remember back when I got thrown in [during the 2006 season], when Brian Hampton went down, I got help from everybody, from the fullback to the linemen. They stuck their neck out for me and helped me out."

© 2008 The Washington Post Company