SB FILE / 2006
Waianae quarterback Ben McQuown may be in for a position switch this year if backup Malu Brown keeps improving. CLICK FOR LARGE
Seariders still have their strut
Waianae's best season in recent history came with bittersweet moments a year ago.
Sure, an 8-5 record may not look scintillating on paper, but Waianae played hard-nosed, bell-ringing football with the best of them. Riding on the shoulders of a quality senior class, the Seariders fell to eventual state champion Kahuku 7-0 in the Oahu Interscholastic Association title game. Two weeks later, Waianae lost to Saint Louis in the state semifinals 10-7.
Even with a No. 5 ranking in the Star-Bulletin Football Preseason Top 10, the graduation of the outstanding class of '06 leaves this year's team with a number of question marks. How does any program replace linebackers like George Kauwalu and Chad Duran, and defensive end David Paaluhi? Kauwalu was one of the best linebackers in state history, voted to the top honor as the Star-Bulletin's defensive player of the year. Paaluhi and cornerback Preston Ayala were also All-State first-team selections.
Also gone is the entire starting offensive line, the one that allowed a large posse of running backs to gain 213 rushing yards per game, best in the Red West.
In the minds of coaches and media, though, Waianae doesn't need to rebuild. The Seariders will simply reload.
"So far, it's not too bad," coach Daniel Matsumoto said on Thursday. "Our kids did pretty well yesterday in a scrimmage (against Kaimuki)."
NO. 5 WAIANAE SEARIDERS
Here's a look at Waianae's results from the 2006 football season and its schedule this season:
Farrington -- L 37-0
Punahou -- -- L 21-12
Mililani -- -- W 28-13
Campbell -- W 16-14
Leilehua -- -- W 24-0
Radford -- -- W 28-0
Aiea -- -- W 34-21
Kapolei -- -- L 17-13
Aiea -- -- W 46-0
Mililani -- -- W 7-6
Kahuku -- -- L 7-0
Kealakehe -- W 28-14
Saint Louis -- L 10-7
Aug. 17 -- Farrington
Aug. 24 -- Mililani
Aug. 31 -- Iolani
Sept. 7 -- at Campbell
Sept. 14 -- Leilehua
Sept. 21 -- at Radford
Sept. 28 -- at Aiea
Oct. 13 -- Kapolei
Matsumoto's talented staff, including offensive coordinator Kurt Ginoza and defensive coordinator Jason Hussey, is measuring its returnees and newcomers carefully.
"It's hard to say yet. We haven't decided who's starting. Right now, everybody's kind of nervous, so we're seeing a lot of competition at a lot of positions," Matsumoto said. "Talent-wise, we knew we weren't as deep as last year, so we have to do a lot more coaching this time around."
Winning, or at least pushing the likes of Kahuku and Saint Louis to the brink, has a way of creating a good problem for the staff.
"We had a lot of turnout, a lot of new faces coming out of the woodwork," Matsumoto added.
Waianae's version of the Wing T offense is all about timing and precision, which means two key offensive linemen are crucial. Sunia Vaitai and Richard Namsen, both seniors, were part-time starters last season.
Malu Brown, last year's backup quarterback, is pushing incumbent Ben McQuown hard in camp. McQuown started last season in his first taste of football since Pop Warner.
"Ben's still trying to learn the ropes, but his throwing ability and mechanics are improving," Matsumoto said.
Two returnees in the backfield are among the frontrunners. Justin Kauwalu and Danny Kekoanui lead the way, while Glenn Wain is also in the mix.
A rich history means Waianae always has high expectations. The bar is higher than ever now.
"They know what we expect of them and there's a lot to live up to because of last year," Matsumoto said. "Our coordinators have ingrained in their minds that they know what we expect of them. The winning spirit is there, and I think they're up for the challenge."
The Seariders won't have it easy in nonconference play. Farrington visits the Seariders on the Leeward Coast on Friday. Waianae hosts Mililani on Aug. 24 in a televised game, according to Matsumoto, to start Red West play.
After that, the Seariders host Iolani on Aug. 31.
"I think the Red division is really competitive," Matsumoto said, echoing the sentiments of many Red West coaches. "It's scary to start off with Farrington. They're huge. They kicked our okoles last year."