Kalani Simpson Sidelines

Kalani Simpson

Aiea can thank Damien
for the Division II title

THIS was their tournament. This was their defining moment, even as the tears fell and the other team danced and then the vicious dull ache set in, like a cement-in-your-veins anesthetic shot.

Damien did this. Damien made this night, made it real, made it great. This was their gift to themselves and to us all. This was their tournament, this Division II.

That is not to take anything away from Aiea, which won a real championship last night with the defensive effort of this or any season. Wendell Say twirled away from a waterfall of ice cubes, his shirt soaked with victory and sweat. In the Aiea stands, screams. Na Alii had done it, won a title, a legitimate state championship that will stand for all time.

There was chicken skin everywhere, in this 9-7 win.

But it was Damien that made it count, made it mean something, started this thing from scratch.

It did so literally, a couple of summers ago, when its president, Br. Gregory O'Donnell, sat down and wrote a letter that shocked our world. When the Monarchs took a stand that lived up to their motto, "Viriliter Age." This would be the beginning of classification. This would be the ripple that became Division II.

And last night Damien was in this championship game.

Yeah, Hawaii High School Athletic Association executive director Keith Amemiya drew it up, pushed it through, brokered the deal. And when all else failed he whipped out his own checkbook and promised to foot the bill. He's smiling today. He's a genius today. He did it. Amemiya did it again.

But it all began with Viriliter Age ("act manfully"), it started when Damien took a stand.

And this tournament mattered more because the Monarchs were in it, then winning, and winning again. Over Kapolei, the favorite, the new powerhouse. On Kauai, against a Waimea team that was all but penciled in for the final.

This was Damien, the small school, the classic underdog, last night. These weren't a couple of big schools sliding down after coming off a couple of bad seasons, battling for a watered-down title.

No, this was Damien, and that made it real. Damien. "We ran a couple of (pep) rallies," O'Donnell said last night, "the kids didn't know what to do.

"The kids were excited," he said. "But they had no practice."

They were always too small, too few. Still are. Starting guard Ray Aquino stands 5-foot-3. Defensive lineman Cory Mullen is 155 pounds. Defensive back Kyle Meheula, who had a big game last night, is 130.

This tournament was the real thing because Damien is truly Division II. And truly good, too. This championship meant something because Damien played well enough to win it, with an unbelievable defensive performance of its own.

It turned out there was no fairy tale, no destiny, no Damien magic. The Monarchs were that good, that's all. The Division II final was a great game between good teams.

"This is the first time," O'Donnell said proudly, "they've had an opportunity to cry."

Beating Damien was the biggest win of Say's career, he said. That says it all.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Kalani Simpson can be reached at


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