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Star-Bulletin Sports

Friday, December 1, 2000

U H _ F O O T B A L L

UH Football

Seniors with
a cause

Tomorrow's game against
Rebels will be the last for
23 Warriors

By Paul Arnett

The class of 2000 has gone from the high of winning last year's Oahu Bowl to the low of Shannon Smith's death and many points in between since deciding to call the University of Hawaii home.

There are six survivors from Fred vonAppen's first year who will lead a cast of 23 seniors into tomorrow night's season finale with Nevada-Las Vegas. Three of those -- linebackers Robert Kemfort and Anthony Smith, and place-kicker Eric Hannum -- have had a direct hand in Hawaii's fate of late.

The other three -- linebacker Joaquin Avila, and slotbacks Ricky Lumford and Davey deLaura -- played lesser roles, but still made it through all the changes June Jones employed his first two years as Hawaii's head football coach. Add a pair of four-year players, Miles Garner and Avion Weaver, and a host of junior college transfers belonging to vonAppen and Jones, and you get a feel as to what this transition has been about.

"You look at some of the older guys and you know they've been through a lot,'' UH true freshman quarterback Tim Chang said. "We appreciate as young players what those guys did to help make this program what it is now. Three years from now, I'm going to remember these seniors and how much they helped me. And hopefully, I can be like them when I'm a senior.''

The freshman class of 1996 was 5-31 under vonAppen and 12-12 for Jones.

Garner and Weaver, who will petition the WAC for an unlikely medical hardship, came on board in 1997, so they missed the 3-9 rookie season of vonAppen. They were both recruited by Tom Williams, who will take part in this year's Rose Bowl as an assistant on Washington's staff, and have enjoyed up-and-down times for the Rainbow Warriors.

"Most of it was a great learning experience,'' said Weaver, who underwent surgery last week to repair torn ligaments in his knee. "I got to work my way up the charts and win the MVP for the Oahu Bowl. There were some tough times, especially in 1998, but what we accomplished last year, nobody can ever take away.''

This year hasn't been as esthetically pleasing. Unlike UNLV, Hawaii isn't playing for a postseason bowl in tomorrow night's nonconference game. The disappointment can be read in the face of safety Dee Miller, who had dreams of being an All-America candidate, and linebacker Rinda Brooks.

The Houston resident had to sit out last year's championship season with a series of concussions he suffered during the 0-12 futility of 1998. He believed Jones would take Hawaii to the promised land again, only to have those hopes dashed early and often.

It became apparent after the season-opening loss to Division I-AA Portland State that something was really wrong with the Warriors. The defense that had dreams of being so dominant -- eight seniors played major roles for first-year coordinator Kevin Lempa -- proved to be otherwise, which wasn't a good mix for the inexperienced offense.

One bright spot among the seniors on offense was right tackle Kynan Forney. Like Brooks, he suffered immeasurably in 1998, only to sit out last year with shoulder problems. Properly healed, Forney came back strong this year to be the only UH player selected first team All-WAC.

"He's quite a story,'' UH offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh said. "We were lucky to have him this season. That extra year in the program helped him out and it helped out us. We needed his kind of veteran leadership up front.''

Forney yielded only one of the nine sacks the O-line has given up this season. His ankle remains stiff, so he probably won't be at full speed, but Cavanaugh expects Forney to play and play well tomorrow night.

"I want to go out with a win, all the seniors do,'' Forney said.

Another bright spot on offense was the emergence of senior running back James Fenderson. He will be looking for his fifth 100-yard game in seven starts against a solid UNLV defense. In Hawaii's three wins this year, Fenderson has carried the ball 55 times for 323 yards and five touchdowns.

"Hopefully, all of our seniors can contribute in some way to help us get a win over UNLV," Jones said. "This is another special class of guys who have been through a lot. We'll miss them."

UH Athletics
Ka Leo O Hawaii

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