Idaho looks to Aloha State to help resuscitate program


POSTED: Friday, November 21, 2008

The Idaho football team is banking that a few local players will turn their fortunes around tomorrow night at Aloha Stadium.

In the Vandals' two previous visits to Hawaii as a member of the Western Athletic Conference, they were throttled by the Warriors, getting outscored 120-31.

The Vandals did not have a player with Hawaii ties on either of those teams, but that will change when the two tangle this weekend.

Sophomore linebacker JoJo Dickson (Baldwin '07), and freshmen Kama Bailey (Damien '08) and Robert Siavii (Leilehua '08) will likely see plenty of playing time in their return home to the islands.

For Dickson, the visit provides an opportunity to ease painful memories of his last game at Aloha Stadium, when his Bears lost to Kahuku 22-20 in the state semifinals on the final play of the game.

“;We lost in about 5 seconds. It was a big disappointment,”; Dickson said. “;I'm looking back and I want to go to the stadium and finally win something.”;

Idaho wasn't a place local athletes went to play football, but with a full scholarship offer on the table and only a chance to walk-on and possibly grayshirt for Hawaii, Dickson became the first of several kids to enroll at Idaho.

“;All I wanted was to get a chance to play and (Idaho) gave me a chance,”; he said.

After an impressive freshman campaign in which he appeared in 12 games and managed 34 tackles, including a sack, Dickson's sophomore season has been hampered by a shoulder injury that's forced him to miss three games.

It's opened the door for Siavii, who a year ago was leading Leilehua through its magical run to a state championship, to get on the field.

Siavii has worked his way from special teams to a prominent role at linebacker, where he is expected to make his fourth consecutive start tomorrow.

“;Yeah it surprised me, but I just came over here with the mind-set to earn my position,”; Siavii said. “;It is kind of different—there are like 7-foot guys out there on the field, but just playing ball and being yourself out there is pretty much the same.”;

Siavii and Dickson will try to contain Hawaii quarterback Greg Alexander, while Bailey hopes to give the UH special-teams unit fits as Idaho's prominent kick returner.

His 840 kickoff-return yards are the second most in school history, and he's also made his presence felt on offense, hauling in two 30-yard touchdown catches this season.

“;I knew, just like Rob said, we had to come up here and work our butts off to get a position,”; Bailey said.

Idaho coach Robb Akey hasn't used Bailey in many offensive sets recently, but expects that to change in the coming years.

“;Kama started out getting more time in special teams and then became our return man,”; Akey said. “;He had two touchdowns as a running back in the Louisiana Tech game and I think he's got a great future.”;

Despite their 2-9 record, the Vandals have shown growth from their 1-11 season of a year ago.

There isn't anything at stake in terms of bowl games or championships tomorrow, but Akey knows the importance of a win against the reigning WAC champions heading into the offseason. He hopes the boys from Hawaii can provide the spark his team is looking for.

“;We're bringing them back to their stomping grounds, so I'd like to think they'll be excited about it,”; Akey said. “;They're fired up to play in front of family and friends, so I'd expect them to play even better.”;

While Siavii and Bailey have made the transition to collegiate football seem smooth, both feel it's been the same way off the field.

The two have adjusted to life on the mainland, saying the 18 Polynesian players on the team have helped them get comfortable with their new surroundings.

As for the weather, the temperature hasn't gotten as cold as it gets in Moscow, and Siavii says he dresses just like he did back home.

“;You know how back in the islands we would walk around with our jacket with no shirt,”; Siavii said. “;That's how it is today.”;

Bailey's fashion style is the same, although he wasn't quite as convincing that the weather wasn't a problem, adding, “;Of course it gets a little cold and you start shivering a little bit.”;

But with winter on the horizon, Dickson, the only one of the three who has spent a full year in Moscow, laughs about what lies ahead for his two teammates.

“;They're gonna have to submit to the temperature when it drops,”; he said. “;Right now they're lucky, but once the snow comes down, that's punishment day.”;