High School Beat

Races for Division II
berths starting to heat up

Division II football races -- love them or hate them -- are in full swing and generating interest around the state.

It's been said that a table with three legs stands stronger than one with more than three. And so it goes in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu's second tier, where the three-legged table is being set for a thrilling climax.

Three former ILH have-nots -- Iolani (3-2, 1-0), Damien (1-1, 1-0) and Pac-Five (2-2, 0-2) -- all have a legitimate shot at making the newly created D-II state tournament.

Coaches Wendell Look of Iolani and Dean Nakagawa of Damien are thrilled for the chance their kids have at getting to the postseason. The Raiders and Monarchs tangle tonight at Aloha Stadium.

But all D-II coaches aren't quite as happy.

Kapolei coach Darren Hernandez -- whose team has won by some lopsided scores, but learned yesterday that a 60-0 win over Kalani will be forfeited due to a clerical error -- doesn't see being in D-II as a negative, but he wants his kids to have a chance at D-I in the future.

"Division I is the grand prize," he said. "We want to get there and stay there and be competitive there."

Hernandez was quick to add that the OIA's White Conference -- which ultimately yields the D-II state tourney representative -- is highly competitive.

"A lot of people say we have an easy schedule and we're in an easy conference, but that's not the case at all," he said. "Winning every week is not easy, and we're doing everything we can not to get caught up in thinking we're better than we really are. We can't believe all the hype."

The toughest part of Kapolei's schedule is coming up. The Hurricanes -- whose record will fall to 3-1, 2-1 once their forfeit to Kalani becomes official -- play Kaiser (2-2, 2-1) tonight, followed by games against Kalaheo (3-2, 3-1), Aiea (3-1, 3-0) and Radford (3-2, 3-1) in successive weeks.

Four White teams make the playoffs to determine which team gets the D-II tourney berth.

Hernandez and Aiea coach Wendell Say agreed that even the White teams with losing records can't be taken lightly. Waialua (0-4, 0-3) hasn't gone down easy in any of its games, Moanalua (0-5, 0-4) is improving and Kalani (1-3, 1-3 after Kapolei's forfeit) has proved its grittiness.

Say is another coach who would like to get his team back in the Division I picture.

Nakagawa would also like to build the Monarchs into a D-I team some day, while Look and Waimea coach Liko Pereira feel D-II is just right for their programs.

"This is shaping up to be very competitive and that's what (Hawaii High School Athletic Association executive director) Keith Amemiya envisioned -- good competitive games all the way through," said Look, who has noticed an increase of players in the ILH D-II schools.

"The kids have an extra incentive to stick it out and grind it out, knowing there might be something at the end of the season. They used to think that once we lost to Saint Louis or Kamehameha that our season was done."

Waimea (3-1, 1-1) is the only team to have already clinched a D-II berth. That's because the Menehunes are the only D-II team in the KIF.

"You go down through the years and it's always been ILH's champion against OIA's big dog," Pereira said. "Division II is the place for us and we feel like we can be competitive there."

Pac-Three (2-3, 1-3) and Lahainaluna (0-4, 0-3) are battling for the Maui Interscholastic League's D-II state berth, while Kohala (1-2, 1-1), Hawaii Prep (1-4, 1-2), Konawaena (1-3, 1-2), Honokaa (1-4, 1-2) and Ka'u (0-3, 0-3) are locked in a wide-open race for the Big Island Interscholastic Federation's D-II spot.

The D-II tourney is on a one-year trial basis and needs approval by the HHSAA executive board to be extended to 2004 and beyond.

Bulldogs seek coach: Kaimuki is looking for a girls varsity head soccer coach. Applicants can call athletic director Fred Lee at 733-4924.

Na Alii need coaches: Aiea is seeking boys and girls tennis coaches. Anyone interested can apply to the school's athletic department by Oct. 17.

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