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Hawaii seniors put it all on line


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POSTED: Saturday, December 05, 2009

The traditional tributes will come after the game.

The stakes Hawaii will play for prior to the annual senior walk may be the greater testament to the impact of the Warriors' senior class.

After two wins to open the season, a confluence of injuries and inexperience contributed to a six-game losing streak—including two blowout losses at home—that left the Warriors' season close to crumbling.

The streak could have shredded the team, but the Warriors' seniors kept it grinding into November. One win turned into four and suddenly UH hit December with a fourth straight postseason berth within sight.

“;Right there they showed a lot of leadership, and that's probably what brought us back and kept us together,”; sophomore quarterback Bryant Moniz said. “;We could have just folded and ended up a 2-10 team, but we stuck together and kept fighting and now we're on a roll.”;

The last time the Warriors missed bowl season was in 2005, when this year's fifth-year seniors were fresh out of high school. And for the first time since 2004, Hawaii enters the regular-season finale with its postseason eligibility unsettled.

The Warriors had secured Sheraton Hawaii Bowl berths prior to senior night in 2006 and 2008. In 2007, the $4 million question was whether they'd earn a spot in the BCS.

This time, the Warriors (6-6) must defeat Wisconsin (8-3) to earn a spot opposite SMU in the Hawaii Bowl or the season is over.

“;They've worked themselves into a place where they have an opportunity to play for everything,”; UH head coach Greg McMackin said. “;They've worked hard to get there and everything's on the line.”;

Hawaii's group of 24 seniors will be honored after the game with the biggest crowd of the season expected in house.

The class includes 10 starters—six on offense and four on defense—and 11 who are finishing their fifth year in the program. Most were along for the ride in the Warriors' Sugar Bowl run of 2007.

“;Too fast,”; offensive tackle Aaron Kia said of his run since 2005. “;You hear it every year from the seniors and you think 'I've got a whole other year coming up.' Next thing you know you're being asked questions about your five years.”;

John Estes has started since the opener of his freshman year and yesterday was named among the finalists for the Rimington Award, presented annually to the nation's top center.

Some had to wait quite a bit longer for their turns to break into the two-deep and embraced roles on special teams, while still others made contributions in practice as scout team players helping to prepare the starters for game days.

“;All this hard work, now it comes down to this last game,”; said linebacker and tri-captain R.J. Kiesel-Kauhane, another of the 2005 signees. “;It does add to the emotion.”;

The Warriors will try to ride that emotion into the physical challenge awaiting them when they take the field against an imposing Wisconsin team that finished fourth in the Big Ten and has had two weeks to prepare for the Warriors.

Although the season comes down to one game, it's a scenario they've grown accustomed to since falling to 2-6 on Halloween, forcing them to win out to become bowl eligible.

“;We've played with our backs against the wall, we've played with pressure for these past four weeks, so I think we're used to the atmosphere,”; Moniz said.

In 2004, the senior combination of Tim Chang and Chad Owens led UH to a win over Michigan State to make the Hawaii Bowl. This year's senior class again figures to set the tone with the Warriors' season on the line.

“;We want to get them to a bowl game and show how grateful we are for their leadership this year and keeping us together,”; junior slotback Greg Salas said.

 

More on the Rimington

Joining Estes among the Rimington finalists are Chris Hall (Texas), Jake Kirkpatrick (TCU), Maurkice Pouncey (Florida), Matthew Tennant (Boston College) and J.D. Walton (Baylor).

The Rimington Award committee uses four All-America teams—the American Football Coaches Association, Walter Camp Foundation, The Sporting News and Football Writers Association of America—to determine the winner, to be announced during the ESPNU/Home Depot College Football Awards show on Thursday.

 

Funaki picked for academy

Senior Inoke Funaki is among 30 student-athletes who will participate in the NCAA Football Coaches Academy set for Jan. 10-12 in Orlando, Fla.

“;Coaching is one of my career ambitions and I'm excited to be able to learn from the best in the collegiate coaching profession,”; Funaki said in a release.

 

HAWAII PROBABLE STARTERS

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
OFFENSE
Z7Jovonte Taylor5-9170
Y2Jon Medeiros5-9185
LT77Aaron Kia6-5290
LG64Ray Hisatake6-3315
C55John Estes6-3300
RG74Raphael Ieru6-2315
RT51Austin Hansen6-4285
H1Greg Salas6-2200
X21Kealoha Pilares5-11200
QB17Bryant Moniz6-0190
RB23Leon Wright-Jackson6-1215
DEFENSE
DE90Elliott Purcell6-3255
DT49Tuika Tufaga6-2285
DT95Vaughn Meatoga6-2290
DE58Fetaiagogo Fonoti6-2255
SLB59R.J. Kiesel-Kauhane5-11225
MLB5Jake Heun6-2240
BLB53Blaze Soares6-1245
CB2Lametrius Davis6-0190
SAM9Spencer Smith5-11205
FS43Mana Silva6-1220
CB18Jeramy Bryant5-10180
SPECIALISTS
PK20Scott Enos5-9180
P31Alex Dunnachie6-3235
Snap45Luke Ingram6-5210
Hold11Inoke Funaki5-11205
KR7Jovonte Taylor5-9170
PR88Ryan Henry5-9170

 

WISCONSIN PROBABLE STARTERS

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
OFFENSE
WR1Nick Toon6-3212
TE89Garrett Graham6-3250
LT68Gabe Carimi6-7325
LG74John Moffitt6-5320
C66Peter Konz6-5315
RG70Kevin Zeitler6-4317
RT78Jake Bscherer6-7310
TE84Lance Kendricks6-4236 
RB32John Clay6-1248
QB16Scott Tolzien6-3205 
WR6Isaac Anderson5-10177
DEFENSE
DE50O'Brien Schofield6-3248
DT45Dan Moore6-2283
DT79Jeff Stehle6-6310
DE99J.J. Watt6-6287
WLB47Jaevrey McFadden6-2230
MLB15Culmer St. Jean6-0233
SLB44Chris Borland5-11235
CB29Niles Brinkley5-10188
SS2Jay Valai5-9201
FS21Chris Maragos6-0198
CB10Devin Smith5-11188
SPECIALISTS
PK18Philip Welch6-3200
Punt98Brad Nortman6-3209
LS62Kyle Wojta6-2231
Hold21Chris Maragos6-0198
PR85David Gilreath5-11170
KR6Isaac Anderson5-10177

 

HAWAII CLASS OF 2009

(Number, player, year joined team, hometown)

Quarterback

12, Greg Alexander, 2008, Santa Rosa, Calif.

RUNNING BACK

11, Inoke Funaki, 2005, Laie

22, Jayson Rego, 2005, Wailuku

23, Leon Wright-Jackson, 2007, Pasco, Wash.

35, Kimo Alo, 2009, Hauula

RECEIVER

2, Jon Medeiros, 2007, Kapolei

24, Craig Bell, 2008, Compton, Calif.

OFFENSIVE LINE

55, John Estes, 2005, Stockton, Calif.

58, Joey Lipp, 2006, Chino, Calif.

64, Ray Hisatake, 2007, San Francisco, Calif.

74, Raphael Ieru, 2005, Honolulu

77, Aaron Kia, 2005, Mililani

79, Daniel Johnson, 2005, Issaquah, Wash.

DEFENSIVE LINE

36, Viliami Nauahi, 2007, Laie

46, Victor Clore, 2006, Kaneohe

49, Tuika Tufaga, 2008, Laie

54, Bo Montgomery, 2008, Kailua-Kona

58, Fetaiagogo Fonoti, 2005, Honolulu

80, Antwan Mahaley, 2005, Carson, Calif.

91, Chris Leatigaga, 2007, San Jose, Calif.

92, Rocky Savaiigaea, 2005, Ewa Beach

LINEBACKERS

47, Joshua Rice, 2005, Las Vegas, Nev.

53, Blaze Soares, 2006, Kaneohe

59, R.J. Kiesel-Kauhane, 2005, Aiea