Waimea afterDuring a decade of football domination in the Kauai Interscholastic Federation, Waimea teams have distinguished themselves as rugged yet disciplined outfits. The Menehunes' schemes aren't exotic, but are executed with precision.
The Menehunes beginWeekend schedule
their defense against
Kauai tomorrow night
By Jason Kaneshiro
But perhaps the most significant thread in Waimea's string of 10 consecutive league championships is the culture of success in which West Kauai players are raised.
"The biggest thing they have is a familiarity with winning," said Keli'i Morgado, the coach at rival Kauai High. "They believe that somebody's going to make a play to put them on top. If you're not familiar with winning, you believe something bad is going to happen. So that's invaluable and a huge benefit they have."
Tomorrow night, Morgado's Red Raiders take a shot at loosening Waimea's grip on the KIF crown. They visit the Menehunes in the league's opening game at Hanapepe Stadium.
Waimea again enters the KIF season as the team to beat coming off its second trip to the state tournament semifinals in the past three years.
The Menehunes return bruising running back Jordon Dizon and linebacker Gary Mata Jr. But Waimea's talent is only part of the challenge facing Kauai tomorrow.
"Looking at my seniors, since they were in Pee Wees they may have beaten those kids once or twice," Morgado said.
"On a small island, you play the same kids, you know each other inside and out. And to lose to them every year is a tough thing to overcome."
Waimea coach Jon Kobayashi said complacency can become a concern after 10 straight championships. But he said the Menehunes' 42-7 preseason loss to Kamehameha will keep the players grounded this season.
"I think the young guys had an eye-opener against Kamehameha and hopefully that experience will keep us on an even keel," Kobayashi said. "We know we can't just show up and win."
Dizon (6-foot-1, 210 pounds) is a powerful runner who will carry the offensive load while junior Jon Palacio gets comfortable at quarterback. Mata earned second-team all-state honors as a sophomore and returns as the hub of the Menehunes' defense.
"I think the guys are ready to play," Kobayashi said. "We had a lot of things to look at in (the Kamehameha) game. We saw a lot of weaknesses in our defense and in our offense and hopefully we'll fix those problems."
Morgado defied Garden Isle tradition when he took over at Kauai four years ago by installing a pass-oriented offense. Tangible benefits of the change have been few as the Red Raiders have won just one game over the past two seasons. But Morgado can feel the tide starting to flow his way.
"There's a sense of momentum, you can feel the confidence growing in the kids," Morgado said.
"On an island that has only run the ball, it was a tough sell. But my senior class tells me we'd rather throw the ball than run because we know the potential it has. Just that belief factor is something we've never had."
Despite standing just 5-foot-7 and 205 pounds, Jerrick Amaki is the team's leader on both sides of the ball as center and defensive tackle.
Kapaa opens its KIF schedule next week under new coach Wesley Kaui.
Kaui inherits a team that lost 27 seniors, but he is optimistic the Warriors will be competitive in the KIF after going 2-1 in the preseason.
"We're right on target," Kaui said. "We're excited because the boys have good attitudes and we have great support."
The Warriors are led by senior quarterback Dustin Mundon, a third-year starter behind center.
This week's highlights around the state:
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TomorrowMcKinley vs. Kahuku, at Aloha Stadium: The Tigers have had two weeks to prepare for Kahuku after their impressive win over Aiea.
Defense carried Kahuku to wins over Waianae and Kalaheo, while a green offense continues to mature.
Kailua vs. Farrington, at Roosevelt: The Surfriders outscored their first two opponents 101-18 and averaged 571 yards per contest. The Governors are looking to get back on track after last week's 18-14 loss to Castle.
Big Island rivalries: Waiakea takes on Hilo in their traditional showdown at Wong Stadium, and Konawaena hosts Kealakehe for West Hawaii supremacy.
Kealakehe and Hilo opened the BIIF season with wins last week, while Konawaena and Waiakea, last year's co-champions, both suffered lopsided losses.
SaturdayKapolei at Pearl City: As unlikely as it may have seemed two weeks ago, the meeting between the Hurricanes and Chargers could be a turning point in the OIA White Conference race.
Both teams are 2-0 and tied for first with Kaimuki. The Hurricanes average 402 yards per game. Pearl City has the White's top-rated defense, allowing 184 yards per game.
St. Anthony at King Kekaulike: Two MIL upstarts try to solidify their places as title contenders.
King Kekaulike knocked off defending MIL champ Lahainaluna 41-21 last week, while St. Anthony stunned perennial power Maui 19-6.
Hawaii School Web Sites
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