Tuesday, September 17, 2002

St. Louis coach Delbert Tengan and De La Salle coach Terry Eidson chatted at a press conference last month. The Crusaders and Spartans face off in a doubleheader on Saturday.


Historic doubleheader

By Jason Kaneshiro

Unprecedented. Historic. The Super Bowl of high school football.

The labels already stamped on Saturday's HHSAA Football Classic at Aloha Stadium may be approaching the point of hyperbole, but perhaps with good reason.

After all, how often do four teams with national reputations, representing the super powers of their respective states, gather in one stadium? How many times do prep games merit live regional television coverage? And how many high school sporting events can sell more than 20,000 tickets a month prior to kickoff, with organizers hoping to have double that amount sold by game day?

And as the hype reaches its peak this week, the coaches face the challenge of preparing their players for a game while shielding them from the distractions inherent in playing in what could be the highlight of the high school football season nationally.


"I think the kids have kept it in perspective," said St. Louis coach Delbert Tengan, whose Crusaders face defending national champion De La Salle (Concord, Calif.) in Saturday's second game. "Our biggest concern is that our kids keep focused on the game. It's going to be a whole different atmosphere come Saturday night than anything we've ever experienced, whether as players or coaches, and we continue to remind them that our job is on the field.

"We have no control over how big the crowd is going to be and how noisy it's going to be, but we have control of doing our assignments and executing, so that's been the focal point."

The doubleheader kicks off at 5 p.m. with two-time defending state champion Kahuku (3-0) facing Long Beach Poly (1-0), which ended last season ranked third in the country. St. Louis (2-0) will then try to end De La Salle's record 126-game winning streak at 8 p.m.

The buildup for the Classic has been mounting since it was announced last February, and even the coaches are not immune to getting swept up in the anticipation. Kahuku coach Siuaki Livai admitted he may have been peeking toward the Poly game while the Red Raiders were getting ready to face McKinley last week. Kahuku escaped with a 14-13 win.

"The last three weeks have been the hardest three weeks of my career," Livai told the Honolulu Quarterback Club yesterday. "I can honestly tell you I learned a lot. Number one, you should never plan too far ahead of yourself. I almost learned that the hard way. ... I feel like I was blessed because for whatever reason we were able to pull out that game."

Livai said he could also sense the players were targeting Saturday to finally cut loose.

"They've been holding back just to get to this week and then let everything go," he said. "There's no need to give them extra motivation, they know what is at stake. They're ready to go."

The Red Raiders will need their best performance against a Poly team that held Westchester to minus-30 yards in total offense in a 45-0 win last week. De La Salle also opened with a shutout as the Spartans blanked Archbishop Mitty 24-0 last Friday.

However, the status of Spartan running back Maurice Drew is in question. Drew rushed for 131 yards and a touchdown and scored on a punt return last week, but the senior finished the game on crutches after suffering an ankle injury. X-rays on the ankle were negative, but his availability for Saturday's game is in question.

Tengan generated a buzz through the Quarterback Club by comparing Drew to Marshall Faulk for his ability to break long runs.

"He is very, very explosive," Tengan said. "It can be third-and-15, they run a draw and he takes it 90 yards for a touchdown. They're a quick-strike team on the ground."

St. Louis took a week off following a 49-0 win over Punahou to correct some of the flaws that showed up in the film sessions.

"We just felt that in order to beat a team like De La Salle, you've got to take care of yourself first," Tengan said.

Regional TV for Classic: The HHSAA Football Classic will be seen live on the West Coast, but KGMB general manager Rick Blangiardi hopes interest in the doubleheader extends beyond the Western region.

"As word of these games spreads, I think we're going to be getting a lot of interesting phone calls this week," Blangiardi said. "I want to get these games seen in as many places as we possibly can."

Blangiardi secured a deal to televise the games live in Southern California on Fox Sports West. The St. Louis-De La Salle game will be shown live in Northern California on Fox Sports Bay Area, while the Kahuku-Long Beach Poly game will be delayed.

Action Cable Sports Network will also televise the games in the Pacific Northwest, but hasn't determined if they will be shown live or delayed.

The games will be shown live locally on KGMB if at least 40,000 tickets are sold by Friday. More than 23,000 had been sold coming into the week. Both games will be aired live on radio on KUMU 1500-AM.

Football Classic

Who: Kahuku vs. Long Beach Poly, 5 p.m.; St. Louis vs. De La Salle, 8 p.m.
When: Saturday
Where: Aloha Stadium
TV: KGMB (time TBD)
Radio: KUMU 1500-AM

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