HHSAA DIVISION I FOOTBALL
Host Kauai rolls into state tourney
KELII MORGADO knows the long road to success.
Since he took the reins at Kauai, off-island camps and year-round training have been just part of his vision. From Keaau to Kahului, his teams have worked, sweated and bonded.
The results speak for themselves: three Kauai Interscholastic Federation crowns in a row.
"This year was the toughest of the three," said Morgado, now in his seventh year. "I know there'd be growing pains, but I didn't know it'd be this painful."
Morgado is only half-kidding when he says this, but that's the nature of Friday night lights in the KIF, where football is the big show in town.
"KIF fans are great fans. We probably get the most attendance next to Aloha Stadium and the MIL," he said.
Kauai hosts a newcomer to the state tournament, Kamehameha-Maui, tomorrow night in the opening round of the HHSAA/First Hawaiian Bank State Division II Football Championships. The Red Raiders eked out the KIF title by winning at Waimea's home field, Hanapepe Stadium.
Now, Kauai will host its state-tourney game at that same facility. Vidinha Stadium in Lihue is undergoing renovations; a new track is being installed.
Meanwhile, Moanalua will clash with Kamehameha-Hawaii at the Menehunes' stadium tomorrow. Here's a look at the D-II matchups.
KS-Hawaii (10-2) at Moanalua (7-2)
Tomorrow, 7 p.m.
Winner plays Iolani (7-4)
On paper: The run-and-shoot of KS-Hawaii meets Moanalua's option attack in a matchup of contrasts.
Warriors quarterback Mana Silva is the state's best kept secret. The multi-sport standout is a true scholar-athlete, but defenders bemoan his speed and scrambling ability. KS-Hawaii has used the option in the past, and if necessary, are capable of churning out first downs on the ground.
Two-way lineman Ikaika Mahoe and wide receiver-defensive back Pono Kaleohano are back from one-game suspensions. Both were ejected during a win over Hilo two weeks ago, and though they are eligible now, there was plenty of controversy surrounding the calls that led to their suspensions.
"They're seniors, so we're happy they got through it," coach Ulima Afoa said, referring to his team's decisive 41-6 win over Konawaena last weekend for the BIIF D-II championship.
Moanalua's offense is one-dimensional, but potent. Quarterback Stanford Leti is the premier athlete at his position and will likely be a safety at the next level. The speedy senior plays on both sides of the ball, as does his classmate Quinton Tang.
Moanalua is the better-tested team, coming up through a surprisingly competitive OIA White Conference slate. The Menehunes finished in a three-way tie atop the White standings before losing to a bigger Radford squad 9-7 last weekend for the OIA D-II title.
Skinny: Silva is the kind of quarterback that makes defensive coordinators worry. There was nobody in the OIA White quite like him.
"He's a very talented young man, and he's got an opportunity to show his talent. He'll take advantage of it. He's a (future) D-I player with a great work ethic," Afoa said.
Afoa was hand-picked by athletic director Bob Wagner to lead the KS-Hawaii football program when it moved up to the varsity level two years ago.
"Arnold is a top-notch coach," Afoa said of Moanalua's Arnold Martinez.
X factor: Kamehameha-Hawaii has traveled off-island once this year, winning at KS-Maui in August.
"We come in on Friday. Travel hurts you, but it's not something new," Afoa said. "You learn how to dress, know what the rules are."
Aside from travel, the Warriors may have a distinct advantage in the kicking game. Place-kicker Leon Peralto has 60-yard range on field goals. "A lot of people can have a leg, but he's the total package with the work ethic. He'd probably be a safety if he weren't so valuable as a kicker. He's one of our best hitters on special teams."
Summary: The interisland matchup gives Oahu fans a chance to see one of the state's top linemen, Mahoe. He isn't huge, but his strength is a good test for Moanalua's small but precise linemen. If Mahoe and the KS-Hawaii defensive line can control the trenches, the Warriors could be victorious in their first state-tournament game.
KS-Maui (5-6) vs. Kauai (6-1-1)
Tomorrow, 7:30 p.m. at Hanapepe Stadium
Winner plays Radford (8-2)
On paper: These teams are the epitome of overachievement. Kamehameha-Maui had immense promise and potential in a league filled with football talent, but it took a half-season for the Warriors to start clicking.
The Red Raiders lost plenty of talent to graduation, including Kekoa Crowell (nearly 2,000 passing yards in '04). Waimea recharged for a title run, but Kauai came through with a narrow win at Hanapepe to claim its third league crown in a row.
Kamehameha-Maui, meanwhile, celebrated its first MIL D-II title.
"Getting over the hump, that first win over Pac-Three, was big. We were patient, and it's not how you start, but how you finish," Warriors coach Leo Delatori said. "It took away a lot of the burden."
KS-Maui's defense set the tone with linebacker Preston Gannon and defensive back Keone Wong. Diminutive but powerful running back Shane Kamakaokalani (5-5, 145) ranked fourth in Maui Interscholastic League rushing (543 yards) alongside Kaui Owan.
Kamakaokalani's counterpart is another tough runner in a small package. Jonathan Rellin ranked second in the KIF (363 yards) for a Kauai team that was once a pure run-and-shoot attack.
"We cut back on the reads by our wide receivers and quarterback," Morgado said. "We only had two returning starters on offense, so I anticipated I'd have to adjust."
Jett Jasper (6-2, 185) caught 17 passes for 142 yards and five scores. "He's not fast like a jet. I call him 'Prop.' He's a sure receiver and he's strong," Morgado said. The Red Raider defense is led by linebacker Raymond Jerves (6-3, 180), safety Justin Jumawan-Perreira and tackle Caylen Wada.
Skinny: The Warriors came along quickly with their first senior class. Baldwin struggled with KS-Maui, winning 14-7.
Still, if Kauai finds a way to slow the Warriors' ground attack, the pressure will shift to Warriors quarterback Keahi Raikes. He was third in MIL passing yardage, but threw 12 picks.
X factor: KS-Maui has not traveled since last year, when it played at Kamehameha-Hawaii. Hanapepe Stadium is a very difficult venue for visitors, even though Kauai will have to board a bus to travel to the game.
Summary: The Red Raiders have enough balance on offense to keep the chains moving, but a win tomorrow has to start with defense.