WSU football receiver debunks superstitions, earns No. 1 jersey

Saturday , April 19, 2014 - 8:04 PM

Roy Burton, Standard-Examiner staff

OGDEN --- Shaydon Kehano walked off the field at Stewart Stadium after the annual Purple and White spring game wearing No. 85 for the last time. When the senior Weber State receiver from Kaneoho, Hawaii, returns for fall camp, Shaydon Ochocinco will be Numero Uno.

Kehano approached first-year Wildcats coach Jay Hill during the winter and told him he wanted to change numbers and was told he’d have to earn it. Kehano beat out several other Wildcats for the right to wear the No. 1 jersey through competitions during winter conditioning like sprints, tug of war and weightlifting.

“To earn No. 1, I had to win competitions, do the right things, as in go to class, getting good grades, doing good in the weight room, putting up good numbers,” Kehano said.

He had another motive: “The main reason I want to change my number is a superstitious thing: I feel like wearing 85, I’ve been hurt most of the time, so I just wanted to change it up, get a new start,” Kehano said.

“I’ve been held back for two seasons already. I feel like I’ve been past those injuries, so I feel like this coming-up senior year is going to be a good year for me as well as the team.”

Held back is a mild way of putting it.

After earning All-Big Sky Conference honorable mention honors while starting every game as a sophomore and catching 43 passes for 883 yards and eight touchdowns, Kehano broke his leg three games into his junior year and missed the rest of the 2012 season.

Kehano was given a medical redshirt to repeat his junior year, but a week before the start of the 2013 season, he re-broke the leg in fall camp and missed the first eight games. Kehano showed the Wildcats what they had been missing with six catches for 123 yards and a touchdown against Portland State in his first game back.

“My body didn’t feel great but I stuck it out and I was happy to get at least four games in and what I’ve done in those four games. I’m going to build off that and get better,” Kehano said.

He has big goals for his senior year, though the No. 1 priority for No. 1 has to be staying healthy.

“Winning the Big Sky championship, that’s the ultimate goal,” he said. “Personal goals -- first-team All-American, that’s what I’m trying to go for. I’m going to work hard for that and we’ll see how it goes.”

Kehano led all receivers in the Purple and White spring game with five catches for 80 yards.

Purple won the game, 20-14, in front of several hundred fans at Stewart Stadium, with quarterback Jadrian Clark completing 9 of 12 passes for 115 yards, a touchdown and an interception and running back Zach Smith rushing for 86 yards and a score. Gabe Davis had the biggest play for Purple, a 66-yard touchdown run.

The game got a feisty in stretches, with penalty flags flying, contradicting first-year coach Jay Hill’s emphasis on discipline during spring camp.

“I’ve got to continue to put these guys in competitive situations where the juices get flowing,” Hill said, “because right now, when it gets super-competitive is when they revert back to the same bullcrap that they did last year (when the Wildcats went 2-10). We’ve got to help them see and understand that, when it gets chippy, when it gets like that and they lose their minds, that’s when we get flags and penalties and that’s when we turn the ball over. It’s a learning process but that’s the stuff we’ve got to fix.”

Clark said things will be different when the season arrives.

“That’s kind of good because we’re not going to have that in the fall, we’ve got to tight things up and be more disciplined, but that’s stuff between Purple and White, we’ve been kind of having a rivalry every day since we found out the teams,” he said. “I think it’s good for the team to have competition.”

Defensive end Connor Myers said discipline has improved overall since last season but the competitiveness of the game situations brought out some emotion in the teams.

“It was kind of echoing the way we’ve come out and competed every day this spring ball. Offense and defense have really improved, especially how competitive we are,” he said. “I think that showed (Saturday) sometimes for the good, and the bad, some of the penalties, some of turnovers today, but overall it was good.”

The defenses came out ahead of the offenses by forcing six turnovers in a format where the Wildcats played four quarters of game simulation with a running clock in the second half.

Linebacker Alema Key led all tacklers with nine for the White defense, forced a fumble and grabbed an interception which he returned for 20 yards. Defensive end Obi Owoh had a sack and two tackles for loss, while defensive end Adam Lewis forced and recovered a fumble. Safety Josh Burton had another fumble recovery and corner A.J. Coney had an interception he returned for 17 yards.

Myers had seven tackles, linebacker Ryan Tuiasoa had an interception, safety Chris Jones forced a fumble and cornerback Deon’tae Florence recovered and returned it 20 yards to lead the Purple defense.

Quarterback Austin Chipoletti completed 11 of 19 passes for 100 yards and an interception for the White squad.

With 130 days to go until the Wildcats open their season on the road at Arizona State on Aug. 28, Hill said Weber State will be more together in the fall.

“What’s crazy in a Purple and White setting like this, we have our best wide receivers split, our best running backs split on opposite sides, our O-line was split so they didn’t have any continuity there but they still handled it pretty good,” Hill said. “When we get all those guys working in unison together, I think we’ve got a chance to be pretty good.”

Football banquet

Weber State’s Gridiron Club hosted its annual football banquet Friday night to honor its 2013 MVPs. Anthony Morales, who has been in Dallas during the past week working out for the Cowboys, won defensive MVP for the third consecutive year.

Erik Walker was named 2013 offensive MVP and Tony Epperson was the special teams MVP. The winner of the Kevin Lapa Award for most inspirational player was Chris Wheeler. Captains Awards went to Bo Bolen, Shelton Robinson, Connor Myers and Morales.

Bolen won the Academic Scholar Award.

Contact reporter Roy Burton at rburton@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @RoyBurtonSE.

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