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Wednesday, November 20, 2002


HIGH SCHOOL REPORT



No task is small for Dizon

The junior running back
is the key to the Menehunes'
success in the state playoffs


By Nick Abramo
nabramo@starbulletin.com

Air Jordan operates in Washington these days, but Ground Jordon is doing his thing on Kauai for Waimea High School.

Jordon Dizon is best known for his skill as a running back, but he also excels at linebacker and acts as part-time water boy. On Friday night, the junior leads the Menehunes (7-1) against Kailua (9-2) in the school's fourth straight Chevron/Hawaii High School Athletic Association State Football Championship appearance. Game time is 7:30 at Kauai's Vidinha Stadium.

"There were some totally dominant teams in the state last year, but this year the top dog (Kahuku) is out and there isn't really a top dog like before," Dizon said. "We definitely have a chance."

A chance is something the Menehunes didn't have in years past. They've won 11 straight Kauai Interscholastic Federation championships, but didn't compete in the postseason against the state's best until the first state tournament in 1999. Since then, Waimea is 2-3 at states, with wins over Kailua and Castle, two losses to Kahuku and one loss to St. Louis. All three losses were to the eventual state champion.

This year, the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Dizon broke KIF individual game (370) and season (1,157) rushing records, and he played in just five of the team's six regular-season games. Waimea's Sean Jardin, an all-state first-team selection as a senior in 1996, held the previous season mark of 1,141.

Comparisons of the two runners are natural.

"There are some similarities, but they're two different types of athlete," said Waimea coach Jon Kobayashi, who has 10 league titles in his 10 years at the helm. "Sean was more of a breakaway, slashing type of runner. Jordon is more of a power runner, inside and outside, and he has some breakaway speed."

Kamehameha head coach Kanani Souza knew Dizon was something special when the Warriors beat the Menehunes 42-7 in the preseason. "He's one of the best I've seen," Souza said after Dizon rushed for 96 yards. Waimea made two big early mistakes and never recovered.

"We're a much different team than we were at the beginning of the year," Dizon said. "Against Kamehameha we had many guys who hadn't even played a varsity game yet. It took us a long time to build to where we're at now. We have a lot of new players, including a lot of seniors who are new, and they've really stepped it up."

Every football team's experience level fluctuates from year to year, and last season is when the Menehunes were top-heavy with veterans. As a starting linebacker, Dizon was part of a tight-knit defense that held powerhouse Kahuku to three touchdowns in a 21-7 state semifinal loss. Because of a lack of veterans (13 returnees) now, Dizon has assumed a leadership role normally reserved for Waimea seniors.

"Jordon is not afraid to work to get in shape," Kobayashi said. "He has a nose for the ball on defense and he puts the team ahead of himself. He's gifted in that he has pretty good size and he has deceiving speed for a big back. And because he's only a junior with one more year to develop, he's probably going to get a lot better."

Dizon also played on the varsity as a freshman, and Friday's game will be his fourth state tournament contest.

Despite getting more media attention than the rest of the team, unselfishness ranks as one of Dizon's most important traits, according to Kobayashi.

"One time we called a timeout and the defense was calling for water, but the young kids who are the water boys weren't ready," Kobayashi said. "Jordon was the first one to run and get water. Most kids who are big stars don't worry about things like that, but he's that kind of person.

"Another thing stands out," the coach added. "A young Pop Warner player wanted Jordon to attend his birthday party. So the dad called and asked if he would come, so Jordon brought teammates Lanikai Kanahele and Dane Koga with him and they went and had a good time. He's a good young man, good in the classroom and well liked by his peers. He's a good example for young guys in the community."

Dizon said the Menehunes, who ended their regular season on Nov. 1, are rested and ready for Kailua.

"Kailua has been constantly involved in playoff games the last three weeks, so we've had longer to prepare for them than they've had to prepare for us," Dizon said.

"The coaches have been working really hard, working hours and hours on thinking about and planning a game plan, and we've been practicing for hours and hours just to perfect that game plan. And the coaches have an excellent game plan. We worked hard this whole summer, the hardest summer camp I've been to, and we worked the hardest we've ever worked in the offseason, too.

"We have a chance (against Kailua) and there's always a chance that we could be up there in the big game."



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