Kerisiano Tuaniga kicked off during a Kapolei football practice last week. The Hurricanes' 3-year-old football program makes its first venture into varsity play this season.

Raising ’Canes

Kapolei makes its varsity debut,
but its OIA White rivals aren't
taking the Hurricanes lightly

The teams

By Jason Kaneshiro

If Darren Hernandez thought his Kapolei football team could tiptoe into the Oahu Interscholastic Association's varsity level this season, last year's performance certainly blew his cover.

In only their second year of existence, the Hurricanes stormed through the OIA's junior varsity ranks a year ago to go 10-1 and advance to the league championship game before losing to Kahuku.

So as Kapolei begins its first varsity season, all eyes will be on the newest member of the OIA White Conference.

"After last season's success, it's going to be difficult to sneak up on anybody," Hernandez said. "By the same token, the expectations might be unrealistically high. But I'd rather have high expectations than low expectations. I want to live up to high expectations."

The Hurricanes stumbled in their varsity debut last week, a 28-0 preseason loss to 19-time OIA champion Waianae. But Hernandez remains confident the Hurricanes will be a force this season, which begins Saturday with a game at Waialua.

"We're going to be ready," Hernandez said after the loss to Waianae. "We're going to go back to the drawing board and get ready for that game and hopefully we can show ourselves better and be competitive in the White Conference."

Hernandez has tackled daunting projects before in his coaching career. He first earned notice for turning a downtrodden Campbell program into a two-time OIA finalist in the 1990s and jumped at the opportunity to build another program from the ground up.

"At Campbell, it was a case of taking a program that had two winning seasons in 30 years and trying to turn that around," Hernandez said. "This is a different challenge because there is no tradition. You get to build it up on your own terms right from the beginning."

Hernandez started from scratch when the school opened in 2000. In his first season as JV coach, he found a group of eager freshmen, only a handful of whom had played organized football before trying out for the team. But enduring the growth process together helped that initial class form a tight bond.

"It's kind of better because we don't have other people thinking they're better than each other," said junior quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada. "We're all learning at the same level and it's a lot better to get along with people because they're learning at the same pace."

After going 3-4-1 in its first season, Kapolei tore through the OIA White last year with Hernandez's option offense generating close to 400 yards per game, and the sudden success cast a spotlight on Kapolei entering this season.

"I do think everybody wants to show us we're nothing because we're the new kids on the block," Kaheaku-Enhada said. "But we're ready to take on the challenge."

The junior class is the foundation for Kapolei, which enters the OIA White with a 57-player roster, including five who tip the scales at 300 pounds or more. But the Hurricanes know it'll take a little extra effort to compensate for their lack of varsity experience.

"We have to play harder, practice harder, show no fear, just give 100 percent on the field from snap to whistle," linebacker Drake Kula said.

As it is for Kapolei, the goal of the rest of the teams in the White Conference is to get out. The top two finishers qualify for the OIA playoffs, and the top four -- but no more than two each from the OIA East and West -- move up to the Red Conference next season.

In addition to a new team, the conference will have two new faces on the sidelines this fall. Former Hawaii linebacker David Maeva makes his coaching debut this week at Kaiser. Pearl City welcomes Onosai Tanuvasa as its new coach.


The teams

Following is a look at each of the teams in the OIA White:


Coach: Ronald Oyama
2001 record: 1-6-1 OIA Red, 1-7-1 overall
Players to watch: LB/RB Daniel Tautofi, RB/DB Darin Fujimoto, OL/DL Raymond Taumalolo, QB/DB Shelden Sarcedo.
Outlook: The Bulldogs are a young group, with just 12 seniors and six returning starters and most will play both ways. Oyama got his team ready to play "ironman football" by hitting the iron in a weight-training program that began in February. Tautofi, an all-state basketball player, can bench press 300 pounds and squat 405 and is already drawing attention from colleges. Sarcedo brings athleticism to the quarterback position and will run an offense that will try to keep defenses off balance with multiple formations.


Coach: David Maeva
2001 record: 4-4 OIA White, 5-4 overall
Players to watch: OL Jesse Glover, QB Kekoa Kamauoha, DB Chris Assily, LB Richard Laboy.
Outlook: The Cougars were consistently among the league's top passing teams under former coach Tony Gayer, but Maeva is looking to bring more balance to the offense in his first season. Kamauoha takes over at quarterback and will have a quality target in Waikoloa Noa, who played for Pac-Five last year but missed most of the season with a knee injury. Maeva is also excited about the potential of brothers Richard and Rusty Laboy, who are cousins of UH defensive lineman Travis Laboy.


Coach: Ron Dement
2001 record: 0-8 OIA White, 0-9 overall
Players to watch: WR/DB Teetai Ane, OL/DL Jason Deguzman, RB/LB Zach Gregory, RB/LB Davin Muramoto.
Outlook: Team unity is a point of emphasis for the Falcons this year and with just 25 players on the varsity roster, it'll have to be. Despite the small numbers, Dement is happy with the attitudes of those who made a commitment to the team and the leadership of his 11 returnees.
Ane, a 6-foot-4, 185-pound senior, is one of the team's top athletes. Deguzman will anchor both the offensive and defensive lines along with Viliami Toefuu and Hoku Van den Handel. Gregory and Muramoto will also be key performers on offense and defense.


Coach: Darren Hernandez
2001 record: First season
Players to watch: QB Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada, WR Brandon Pieper, DB Bronson Pieper, LB Drake Kula
Outlook: The Hurricanes enter their first varsity season with a group of talented but raw sophomores and juniors.
Kaheaku-Enhada will operate an option attack behind a pair of 300-plus sophomore linemen in Darin Awong (6-3, 350) and Tyler Fabrao (6-0, 320). Warren Simanu is a playmaker on the line, while Kula and Brian Padayao are the team's top linebackers. The Pieper twins bring speed to both sides of the ball.


Coach: Jose Guevara
2001 record: 2-6 OIA White
Players to watch: QB Jaimie Rego, RB Demetrius Hawkins, DL Noah Palmerton, LB David Oh
Outlook: The Menehunes' offense lost record-setting receiver Jimmy Strombach, but remains committed to throwing the ball. Rego returns for his second varsity season under center and can spread the wealth to several reliable pass catchers or turn to Hawkins to power the running game. Palmerton returns for his third season and moves from linebacker to the line. Oh is a consistent performer at linebacker.


Coach: Al Beaver
2001 record: 4-4 OIA White, 4-5 overall
Players to watch: RB/LB Ikaika Asinsin, QB Alapaki Distajo, DL/OL Gary Stanton, DL/WR John Van Gisen
Outlook: The Golden Hawks are led by do-everything senior Asinsin (6-1, 250). The returning captain was an honorable mention all-state pick last year, when he rushed for 455 yards and six touchdowns. Beaver, in his third year, said Nanakuli will "center our offense around him. Everybody's going to be (trying to) defend him." Beaver said Asinsin could even play quarterback if needed. Beaver said the Hawks are green on defense, and should get contributions from Stanton and Van Gisen.


Coach: Onosai Tanuvasa
2001 record: 2-6 OIA White, 2-7 overall
Players to watch: WR Keone Peiper, QB Jensen Cabanero, OL Ed Iinuma, DL Preston Faletagaloa
Outlook: Tanuvasa joins the Chargers after two years with Pac-Five and has designs on reversing the program's recent struggles. Tanuvasa is installing the run-and-shoot offense with Cabanero at quarterback. Peiper and Jeremy Cartwright are speedy receivers with good hands. Iinuma anchors the offensive line. At 6-3, 250 pounds, Faletagaloa is a force on the defensive front. Ricky Shinn, an all-state soccer player, brings his considerable athletic skills to the secondary.


Coach: Donald Capello
2001 record: 1-7 OIA White, 2-8 overall
Players to watch: RB Larry Ladao, WR Grant Yamanouchi, LB Justin Barit, DB Kepa Hookano.
Outlook: Last year, the Bulldogs considered scoring a touchdown as a moral victory. This year, they're setting their goals much higher.
Waialua has 16 seniors on its 35-player roster, most of whom have been playing varsity ball for four years. Ladao, Yamanouchi and running back Shaun Kim are the Bulldogs' main weapons on offense with Pookela Gasper and Daniel Nacario rotating at quarterback. Barit is a mainstay in the middle of the defense. Yamanouchi and Scott Galbiso are tough defensive ends and Hookano is an undersized safety with a nose for the ball.

Star-Bulletin reporter Tim Crouse
contributed to this story.




Junior Varsity games start at 5 p.m. with varsity games to follow unless otherwise noted.


Waianae vs. Kahuku, at Aloha Stadium
Campbell at Kailua
McKinley at Aiea
Roosevelt at Waipahu
Kalaheo at Leilehua
Farrington at Radford
Castle at Mililani

Kalani at Pearl City

Baldwin vs. St. Anthony, at War Memorial Stadium, 7:30 p.m.

Cascade (Ore.) at Konawaena
Waimea at Kamehameha, 7:30 p.m.


Kaimuki vs. Moanalua, at Kaiser
Kaiser at Nanakuli
Kapolei at Waialua

Maui vs. King Kekaulike, at War Memorial Stadium, 7:30 p.m.

Kealakehe at Punahou, 11:30 a.m.
Pac-Five at Hilo, 7 p.m.
Kohala at Kamehameha, 7 p.m.
Kapaa at Honokaa, 7:30 p.m.

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