[ HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS ]
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Damien won just three games from 1999 to 2002 before offensive lineman Garyk Ontai, right, and the Monarchs won the ILH Division II title last season after starting out 1-5.
to do it again
After last year's turnaround
» Division I and II teams
season, the Monarchs aim to
return to the postseason
» ILH schedule
It's a muggy afternoon in Kalihi and the hardest-working set of muscles at the Damien football field are in Dean Nakagawa's throat.
The Monarchs' co-head coach barks orders as he hustles the team through a series of two-minute drills. When plays break down he lets the team -- players and coaches alike -- know the current level of performance won't get it done.
His high-decibel exhortations spring from a belief that the Monarchs have the potential for greater things.
"He just wants us to work harder because he can see that we can produce, but if we don't do it all the time we won't do it at all," senior offensive lineman Garyk Ontai said. "He gets on us all the time in practice."
Instilling a belief system in the Damien program was perhaps the greatest challenge facing Nakagawa and Rudy Alejo in their first two seasons with the Damien program. After all, this was a program that went 3-33 from 1999 to 2002. Beginning with an 84-0 loss to Saint Louis to close the 2000 season, the Monarchs lost 17 of 18 games heading into their Interscholastic League of Honolulu opener last year.
The 2003 campaign wasn't shaping up to be all that grand either, as the Monarchs stood at 1-5 in mid-October. But a senior class that had seen nothing but the depths of the ILH sparked a memorable late-season run that netted them the ILH Division II championship and brought the Monarchs within reach of a state title.
The Monarchs' postseason trip rekindled pride in the football team on campus and set the tone for this year's Damien squad.
"We told the guys (last year) the perception of the Damien football program wasn't very positive, from the community, the school, everywhere you looked," Nakagawa said. "It's not something you're going to change overnight and it's something we had to change within ourselves first. We told the guys, 'You have to believe in yourself before others will believe in you.'
"A lot of positive things came about from last year, but football people know one year does not make a program. That's our challenge, to be consistent year in and year out. We got a good start two years ago, last year we had great growth and our focus is to continue that growth."
Damien opens its season tonight with an interleague game against the Castle Knights at Kailua. While last year's run injected confidence into the program, the Monarchs have some big holes to fill after losing 16 seniors, many of whom played three years on the varsity.
"It's kind of a rebuilding year, but we're still trying to get to the top," defensive lineman Bob McDermott said. "I think the overall opinion of us still hasn't changed, but I think we've turned some heads."
Damien turned the heads of football fans in the state with a run that began with a 42-40 win over Pac-Five, sending the Monarchs into the final week of the regular season with an opportunity to leapfrog Iolani for the ILH D-II championship. The Monarchs stunned the Raiders with a 28-21 win, giving them the division title and a berth in the inaugural state Division II tournament.
The Monarchs surprised Kapolei with a 20-14 win in the first round, then beat Kauai power Waimea 17-13 in the semifinals to set up a meeting with Aiea for the state championship.
"There was a lot of pride around the campus," McDermott said. "It was an overall good feeling, a lot of respect."
The Monarchs were in position to claim the state title, but an Aiea touchdown late in the game spurred Na Alii to a 9-7 win.
"It was like a blind leap of faith for (the seniors)," Nakagawa said. "They were investing all the time, energy and sweat in their offseason conditioning, made themselves into better players and made us into a better football team."
As defending division champions, the Monarchs know they'll be the targets for the rest of the league, particularly D-II rivals Iolani and Pac-Five.
With a relatively inexperienced squad, the task before the Damien coaching staff remains daunting. But in one respect the Monarchs are starting a step ahead of where they were a year ago.
"The mind-set is more positive," Nakagawa said. "Last year, we hadn't won anything. This year we're a little further along confidence-wise and having a taste of winning. It's a day-to-day thing, giving great effort and doing things that winners do.
"We're a young team; even our seniors are young. But they're going to come around. I believe in these guys."
BACK TO TOP
ILH Division I
2003 record: 5-2 ILH, 7-2 Overall
2003 postseason: None
Players to watch: QB Pono Kam, RB Jayson Rego, WR Ikaika Hardie, OL Kepa Gaison, DL Kapono Rawlins-Crivello, LB Mana Lolotai, DB Parker Paredes
Outlook: Injuries have decimated the Kamehameha roster in the preseason, forcing a group of newcomers to grow up quickly during the interleague schedule.
"(Playing Kailua and Waianae) will be excellent competition to be put under the fire and we hope they can respond to the challenge," Souza said.
Kam returns at quarterback, but is being pushed by Parker Bode, who sat out last season with a knee injury. "When and if everybody gets back, if we get some consistent play out of that position we'll be very competitive," Souza said.
The Warriors remain devoted to the ground game, with Rego stepping forward as their primary ballcarrier. With WR Waika Spencer still recovering from a knee injury suffered during track-and-field season, Hardie has emerged as a workhorse offensively. The offensive line has been hit hard by injuries and Souza hopes returnees Gaison and Hayden Kahale can get back into the mix on the offensive line before the ILH season.
2003 record: 4-3 ILH, 6-4 Overall
2003 postseason: None
Players to watch: QB Justin Ingalls, WR Brian Matsumoto, WR Miah Ostrowski, OL Trask Iosefa, CB Jay Angotti, CB Maika Murashige, LB Sean Murphy, LB Tysan Paaga, DL Jonathan Overton, DL Wil Tafolo
Outlook: The Buffanblu led the ILH in total offense last year, but must replace the league's top rusher, (Micah Strickland transferred to Kahuku), passer (John Morris graduated) and receiver (Christopher Duncan graduated). In their places are several youngsters looking to make the leap from the intermediate level to the varsity.
"For everybody it's a big, huge jump and it takes some time to get accustomed to the speed and strength of everybody," coach Ane said.
Junior QB Ingalls threw for 251 yards and three touchdowns in his varsity debut last week against Kauai. Matsumoto, a senior, leads the receiver corps, along with junior Steven Dannaway and sophomore Ostrowski, an All-State basketball player.
SAINT LOUIS CRUSADERS
2003 record: 6-1 ILH, 9-2 Overall
2003 postseason: ILH Division I champion, lost to Kahuku in state Division I championship game
Players to watch: WR Shaun Kauleinamoku, QB Stanley Nihipali, DB Nuipitane Nahalea, DL Tyson Alualu, LB Chester Wilson, CB Tyson Marks
Outlook: Tengan led the Crusaders to the state championship in 2002 but stepped down the following season. After Darnell Arceneaux guided Saint Louis to the state final last season, Tengan is back at the helm of the 18-time defending ILH champions. Tengan takes over a young squad with just three starters back. That number drops to two with Alualu out with a foot injury until the Crusaders' ILH opener on Sept. 25.
Nihipali takes over leadership of the offense at quarterback. He saw limited action last year, backing up Kealii Perbera.
"Stanley Nihipali had a great summer," Tengan said. "He's showing the potential we always knew he had."
Chester Wilson returns as a leader at LB and the ability of cornerbacks Tyson Marks and Joe Medeiros to lock on to their receivers allows the defense to devote attention to other areas of the field.
ILH Division II
Rudy Alejo and Dean Nakagawa
2003 record: 3-4 ILH, 5-6 Overall
2003 postseason: ILH Division II champion, lost to Aiea in state Division II championship game
Players to watch: RB/DB Vaa Faualo, RB/DB Kealoha Pilares, DL Bob McDermott, OL Garyk Ontai, OL/TE/DL Eddie Williams
Outlook: The Monarchs are looking to build on the momentum generated by a solid group of third-year varsity players who fueled their late-season run last year.
"Last year's kids set a good tone for the younger guys," coach Alejo said. "They have a good idea of what they have to do to step it up and fill in these gaps."
An offensive line anchored by four returning starters -- Ontai, Williams, Matt Coleman and Ray Aquino -- form the foundation of an inexperienced Damien offense.
The coaches hope the defense can give the offense time to round into form. They think DL Michael Sipili could become a special player.
2003 record: 2-4-1 ILH, 4-6-1 Overall
2003 postseason: None
Players to watch: QB Kiran Kepo'o, WR Micah Kalama, RB Michael Hirokawa, DB Milo Kalama, DB Landon Patoc, LB Jon Takamura
Outlook: The Raiders have put last year's disappointing finish behind them and got off to a strong start with last week's 24-7 win over Farrington.
"We had a lot of seniors last year and we expected a lot more," coach Look said. "This year our goals are still the same and the kids have a good outlook on things. I think the chemistry of the team is coming together really nicely."
RB Raynold Stowers was the focal point for the Iolani offense the last two years. With Stowers off to college, Kepo'o will look to run a balanced Raiders attack. He distributed the ball well in passing for 386 yards and three touchdowns last week. Look said a deep group of receivers, led by Micah Kalama, Kekai Kealoha and Blayne Yama, is the strength of the team. RB Hirokawa (5-8, 160) isn't as big as Stowers, but is effective slipping through holes in the line.
2003 record: 0-6-1 ILH, 2-6-1 Overall
2003 postseason: None
Players to watch: LB Brashton Satele, DL Maika McWayne, DL Russel Fisher, WR Gilbert Gonzales, WR Brent Umehira, WR Cody Walker
Outlook: Kip Botelho takes over the program his father, Don, led for 29 years until he retired in 2002. But Kip is hardly a stranger to the program, serving as an assistant for 21 years.
"(Don) always told me the hardest part about being a head coach is getting to the field," Kip said. "When the game starts it's a lot easier than all the other parts of being a head coach."
Having Satele on defense makes the job a bit easier as well. At 6-foot-2, 235 pounds, he can hold his ground against linemen and has the speed to chase down ballcarriers. OL/DL Fisher and McWayne played nearly every down of last week's opener against McKinley.
Quarterbacks Nathan Alvarado and Bryson Bernie alternated plays last week; tonight it'll be every series. Eventually Botelho hopes one will step forward as a full-time starter.
BACK TO TOP
*Punahou vs. Farrington, at Kamehameha, 7:30 p.m.
*Damien vs. Castle, at Kailua, 7:30 p.m.
*Pac-Five vs. Kaimuki, at Kaiser, 7:30 p.m.
*McKinley at Iolani, 1 p.m.
*Kamehameha vs. Kailua, at Aloha Stadium, 4 p.m.
*Saint Louis vs. Kahuku, at Aloha Stadium, 7 p.m.
*Kamehameha vs. Waianae, at Aloha Stadium, 4:30 p.m.
*Saint Louis vs. Kapolei, at Aloha Stadium, 7:30 p.m.
*Pac-Five at Aiea, 7:30 p.m.
*Punahou at Mililani, 7:30 p.m.
*Damien at Nanakuli, 7:30 p.m.
*Iolani at Pearl City, 7:30 p.m.
*Pac-Five at Leilehua, 7:30 p.m.
*Damien at Roosevelt, 7:30 p.m.
At Aloha Stadium
Damien vs. Iolani, 4:45 p.m.
Punahou vs. Kamehameha, 7:30 p.m.
At Aloha Stadium
Pac-Five vs. Damien, 4:45 p.m.
Saint Louis vs. Kamehameha, 7:30 p.m.
At Aloha Stadium
Pac-Five vs. Iolani, 4:45 p.m.
Punahou vs. Saint Louis, 7:30 p.m.
Damien at Punahou, 3:15 p.m.
Pac-Five vs. Saint Louis, at Aloha Stadium, 4:45 p.m.
Kamehameha vs. Iolani, at Aloha Stadium, 7:30 p.m.
At Aloha Stadium
Damien vs. Pac-Five, 2 p.m.
Iolani vs. Saint Louis, 4:45 p.m.
Kamehameha vs. Punahou, 7:30 p.m.
Damien at Kamehameha, 7 p.m.
Iolani vs. Pac-Five, at Aloha Stadium, 4:45 p.m.
Saint Louis vs. Punahou, at Aloha Stadium, 7:30 p.m.
Damien at Iolani, 3:15 p.m.
Pac-Five vs. Punahou, at Aloha Stadium, 4:45 p.m.
Kamehameha vs. Saint Louis, at Aloha Stadium, 7:30 p.m.
Iolani at Punahou, 3:15 p.m.
Kamehameha vs. Pac-Five, site/time TBA
Saint Louis vs. Damien, site/time TBA
ILH championship (if necessary)
*ILH-OIA interleague games