Waianae strives for that elusive title


POSTED: Wednesday, August 05, 2009

There are sedate Mondays.

Then there are Waianae Mondays, as in the first day of school plus the first practice in full pads for the Seariders football team.

Eleu Wilson takes it all in stride. At 290 pounds, the defensive tackle and fullback is one of the leaders of a team that continues to battle for titles. A league championship, however, has eluded Waianae since 1997. After 18 Oahu Interscholastic Association crowns, the Seariders have watched Kahuku dominate.

It's not that Waianae hasn't been in the hunt. Last season ended with a 12-7 loss in the Red Conference semifinals to eventual OIA champ Kahuku. Wilson, who scored four touchdowns in an early-season win over Kapolei, missed the playoffs because of a knee injury, but is back strong now.

Though only two practices in full pads have passed, Waianae is ranked again. The Seariders are No. 10 in the Star-Bulletin Preseason Top 10.

; Like every other public-school program, Waianae's coaches are still getting acquainted with their players, particularly first-year varsity additions. The coming week will be pivotal; depth charts are being filled in during these days of scrimmages.

Waianae will travel to Kaimuki for a scrimmage tomorrow. The season opener against Kapolei is just 16 days away.

“;Right now, we're still trying to get our groove on. It's coming along,”; said coach Daniel Matsumoto, now in his 10th season at the helm.

2008 record: 5-6 (5-4 OIA Red).

On paper: Matsumoto's squad has a lot of question marks because of graduation. Among the losses is All-State second-team running back Danny Kekoanui, who averaged more than 100 yards per game from scrimmage.

They return five starters on both offense and defense, including quarterback and middle linebacker. Quarterback Keoni Napierala-Rose was steady last season as a first-year starter. He threw just three picks while directing the Wing-T.

He could get a stiff challenge from Puletua Wilson, a strong-armed junior up from the JV.

Linebacker Chivas Paris, an All-State honorable-mention pick, is the top returnee for a position that is often Waianae's deepest. However, injuries have depleted the corps.

The defensive line will be bolstered by a possible move of Leo'o Tanielu from offensive tackle to defensive end. Kalei Hensley, along with Wilson, could be a key factor at tackle.






        Aug. 21 at Kapolei

        Aug. 29 Kamehameha

        Sept. 5 Campbell

        Sept. 18 Nanakuli

        Sept. 25 Leilehua

        Oct. 2 at Waipahu

        Oct. 9 at Mililani

        Farrington 20, Waianae 7
        Punahou 37, Waianae 21
        Waianae 34, Kapolei 0
        Waianae 42, Pearl City 28
        Waianae 21, Nanakuli 0
        Waianae 27, Leilehua 21
        Waipahu 28, Waianae 15
        Mililani 20, Waianae 16


2008 Playoffs
        Waianae 25, Castle 13
        Kahuku 12, Waianae 7
        Leilehua 32, Waianae 0


“;He's been going to some camps,”; Matsumoto said. “;Some people are looking at him now.”;

Wilson will likely see far more playing time at defensive tackle than running back. Matsumoto said the bruising senior will be key to the offense in short-yardage situations.

The secondary is deep and seasoned. Guyson Amina is one of three returning starters there.

The skinny: Last season's team relied on physical defense and a punishing ground attack, but replacing defensive tackle Wade Keliikipi (first team All-State) is a tough challenge.

The Seariders also lost two All-State third-team offensive linemen in Josiah Chongtim and Dan Voa. Combine that with the departure of Kekoanui and there may be some timing issues for the Wing-T early on.

In addition, there's a new offensive coordinator in Anthony Sandobal. The former Seariders player is very familiar with the Wing-T, but there may be some new wrinkles in the playbook.

X factor: Matsumoto looks at the little things that set the tone. A disciplined team is often a crisp unit on the field.

“;The locker room's clean, so that's one sign,”; said Matsumoto, 49. “;We have some leadership.”;

On the gridiron, penalties sometimes derailed the Seariders last season.

“;The discipline factor is always big for us. If they can just play the game and not play the crowd, that'll be key,”; he added.