Kamehameha primed


POSTED: Wednesday, November 04, 2009

When Kamehameha claimed its first state football title in 2004, the Warriors followed a simple yet effective game plan: mix a ball-control running game with a stifling defense while having all the players involved in superb condition.

That squad relied on Jayson Rego to carry the offensive load, while lineman Mika Kane and Co. wreaked havoc on a defense that allowed 20 points in its final five games, including the 28-7 championship win over Leilehua.

Fast-forward five years to the present Kamehameha team, which features shifty yet powerful running back Ryan Ho, who leads the Interscholastic League of Honolulu with 866 yards on 124 carries and 12 touchdowns.

The Warriors defense has given up 10 points per game in seven league contests after surrendering just five points in three nonleague games. With third-year coach David Stant at the helm, the team could be on a parallel path to another championship run.

“;It's really hard for me to compare those two teams because I wasn't here (in 2004), but in the three years (since I started), the players on defense understand and execute the defensive assignments much better,”; Stant says. “;We incorporate a lot of different keys vs. different patterns and formations (shown by opposing offenses) so it takes a lot of recognition.”;

The Warriors, ranked No. 2 in the Star-Bulletin poll, have relied on a senior-laden crew to execute the complex defensive schemes. Chaz Bajet and linemen Landon Aano and Beau Yap have helped set the tone.

“;The defensive front seven (especially) are playing really well together,”; Stant says. “;They're so explosive that it's complicated for offenses to key in on just one guy.”;

Kamehameha's offseason strength and conditioning program served as a springboard. The team endured three-part sessions throughout the spring and summer that incorporated weight training, running and agility drills. Stant also implemented four-a-day practices during the annual training camp week.

The team maintains its conditioning by executing so many plays during practice that players must run between formations and the sidelines, accurately portraying the pace of a game. In a recent practice, Stant scripted 125 plays that needed to be run in the two-plus hour session.

The Warriors defeated Saint Louis 21-7 on Saturday, notching a second victory over the ILH rival in the same season for the first time in 25 years.

“;I didn't even know. Our trainer came up to me after the game and told me,”; said Stant of the historic sweep. “;It doesn't feel any different now because I don't want this to be the end of our season yet. I've forgotten about Saint Louis.”;

Kamehameha (9-1, 6-1) faces Punahou (5-4, 5-2) tomorrow at Aloha Stadium in the ILH season finale for both teams. A Warriors victory clinches the league title and resulting berth in the state tournament, while a win by the defending state champion Buffanblu sets up a potential tie-breaking contest to determine the ILH champion.

“;What we talk to the boys about is not to think about the (one-game) cushion. We need to win now so we can rest next week,”; Stant said. “;Punahou's going to come out off a bye week, so they're going to be fresh. They do some great things on both sides of the ball.”;

With an ILH championship, Kamehameha would likely earn one of the state's top two seeds, the accompanying first-round bye and a spot in the semifinals. Therefore, tomorrow's contest marks the first of three wins needed to earn the school's fifth overall state crown - a goal Stant says anything short of will be an extreme disappointment.

“;All the work they've put in to this program, I would take it personally that I didn't prepare them well enough to win,”; he said.