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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, December 5, 2003

ILH or OIA, the best teams will win

Gazing into the Hawai'i State High School Championships crystal ball

Cartoon by Dick Adair

 •  'Aiea vs. Damien
 •  Kahuku vs. Saint Louis

By Stacy Kaneshiro and Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff

Thanks to Hawai'i High School Athletic Association executive director Keith Amemiya pulling off a Division II state tournament, I can cast twice as much grief on you, Wes.

First of all, Iolani grad, shouldn't you be backing your league? You don't have to be a private school product to realize the Interscholastic League of Honolulu will pull off a sweep tonight. That's right, Damien and Saint Louis will take the Division II and Division I titles.

OK, stop chuckling at Damien. You can laugh at Damien alumnus Frank DeLima, but not at the football team. Not this year. This one's for you, Punahou Aina, Damien grad now an assistant with (gasp!) 'Aiea of all teams.

The Monarchs are revealing their true colors now. And I'm not talking about their Purple Line, which is a nice tradition. I'm mean, this state tournament must seem like a relief compared to the regular season. Damien has been through the wringer already. After facing Saint Louis, Kamehameha and Punahou, everyone else seems like, well, Division II.

The Monarchs faced one of the best running threats in the state in Kapolei's Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada in the opening round of this tournament. They held him to one touchdown. Do you know how hard that is? The team you're backing, 'Aiea, allowed him to score twice on two occasions. Damien plays "D" with authority. Defensive end Soane Sevelo can play against anyone, any division, anytime, any place.

He isn't the only one with game. Ranson DeCosta is a true gamer. Doesn't he have enough to do? Plays running back, lines up as a receiver, plays some defensive secondary, punts. 'Aiea's going to begin to think Damien has more than one No. 5 on the field.

Offensively, the Monarchs aren't flashy. Don't have to be. They'll grind it out. Give DeCosta the ball. Give Va'a Faualo the ball. Give Fehi Sevelo the ball. Let quarterback Tevita Williams keep the ball. Then, boom! There goes receiver Andrew Canoy running off to the end zone.

Hey, this is for the Damien alumni who have taken grief for so many losing seasons. So I'm expecting The Advertiser's Damien grads to wear their colors today. You got that, Paul Carvalho (sports department), Stephen Downes (graphics) and David Yamada (photography)?

Now comes the ironic part.

Saint Louis is the underdog. Shouldn't that be Damien's role?

Who's ranked No. 1 in this paper's Top 10? That's right, undefeated Kahuku.

Even my anonymous bookie — who annually provides me a line for the game, unsolicited, of course — told me Kahuku was giving 7 points. That's a rout.

Well, the only rout I see is you, Wes, digging your way out of this mess.

Face it. Nothing fazes the Crusaders. It starts at the top with rookie coach Darnell Arceneaux. Twenty-six years-old. You'd think he was coaching for 26 years. He took on the most high-profiled high school coaching job in the state less than a month before summer practice started. He has continued the legacy left by his former coach, Cal Lee.

For Darnell, this is fun. You're looking at a guy who, as a sophomore, was pressed midway into the biggest game of the year to lead Saint Louis to the 1992 O'ahu Prep Bowl title. He has since succeeded on the collegiate and professional level.

So 7 1/2 points don't seem too intimidating and Darnell's coolness under pressure will be evident on his players. After a season-opening loss to Kamehameha, the chat rooms were writing off the Crusaders. All Saint Louis has done is reel off eight wins in a row. Sure that pales to Kahuku's 13, but like Damien, the Saints had to march through forces like Kamehameha, Punahou and, yes, Damien, to represent the ILH in this Division I tournament.

Cool is quarterback Keali'i Perbera, a third-stringer a year ago, the man in the hot seat tonight. He is not blessed with the size prominent in Saint Louis quarterbacks of the past like Arceneaux, Jason Gesser or Tim Chang. But remember Joel Lane? Lane was about the same stature and like Perbera, a left-hander. Lane guided Saint Louis to two Prep Bowl wins. Both succeeded with deadly accuracy.

How can anyone stop Perbera's receivers? Can someone match 6-foot-5 Desmond Hanohano? Is that a football name or what? Can somebody catch Shaun Kauleinamoku? Can anyone contain B.J. Batts?

Defense, of course, is Saint Louis' trademark.

With guys like linemen Tavita Thompson and Tyson Alualu, and middle linebacker Dylan Moss on the prowl, getting around the field will be difficult for the Red Raiders, no matter how many running backs they use.

Want to throw? Where? Keao Monteilh and Pono Vierra are ready to snag a few aerials.

Wes, you don't have to hear all this from me. Fellow scribe Dayton Morinaga, our resident Saint Louis grad — I won't reveal the year, but just think when was the last time the Crusaders didn't win the ILH title — will tell you the Saints will march to another state title. So do what's right, Wes, go ILH. You did once before.

Predictions: Damien 22, 'Aiea 21; Saint Louis 21, Kahuku 19

Stacy Kaneshiro is a graduate of McKinley, which once belonged to the ILH before seceding the league after the 1969-70 school year. He is 0-2 in these trivial pursuits of prognostication. Reach him at Saint Louis and Damien, where he will be gloating after tonight's games, or at skaneshiro@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8042.

• • •

OK, so unlike my colleague Stacy Kaneshiro, I never spent one day at a public school until my freshman year at UH.

But I'm a public school guy at heart, and post-college friends have said so ("I cannot believe you went private school ... I cannot believe you went to Iolani!").

I take it as a compliment.

My dad graduated from a public school (Baldwin), my brother teaches at one ('Aiea Intermediate) and most of my best friends from college were raised on 45 lunches at Lahainaluna, Castle and Hilo.

I may have spent my childhood days in cozy air-conditioned classrooms, but I also logged plenty of hours with public school kids while playing youth sports or attending Parks and Rec summer fun, not to mention daily rides home on the No. 3 (Navy-Main Gate) and No. 2 (School-Middle St.) buses.

I even signed up for a summer school class at Farrington once (it got canceled).

When I was growing up watching high school football, most of my idols were private school guys like Leroy Lutu (Pac-Five), Kaulana Park (Kamehameha) and John Kamana (Punahou). But I also marveled at public school stars like Clifford Kaneaiakala (Kaiser), Kurt Gouveia (Wai'anae) and Lakei Heimuli (Kahuku).

I don't know exactly what category Boyd Yap (Kamehameha/Kaiser) fits into, but he was one of my heroes, too.

Which brings us to tonight's state championship doubleheader: 'Aiea vs. Damien, Kahuku vs. Saint Louis. Public school vs. private school.

Stacy, it doesn't get any better than this.

My tuition-based roots notwithstanding, I say you can't help but root for the public school teams. While Saint Louis was fine-tuning on its $900,000 FieldTurf this week, Kahuku was relegated to one-hour workouts in its gym because the Red Raiders' patchy field was totally soaked by heavy rain.

'Aiea happens to have one of the nicest fields in the state. But Na Ali'i also has only $7,000 a year to maintain it, when it actually costs about $50,000. Which means they aren't allowed to practice on it when it rains, like it did Monday.

"We just ran around the school and lifted, watched some film," 'Aiea coach Wendell Say said.

Improvising is what public school kids do best: Not enough textbooks? Share. Teachers/coaches go on strike? Practice on your own. Wash hands in the bathroom and no paper towels? Use your shirt.

Eh, life won't always be about well-ironed polo shirts and ivy-covered halls, anyway.

When Kahuku was designated as the visiting team in last week's game against Farrington, the Red Raiders had to scramble to find enough white jerseys for their 96-man roster. Everybody got one, even if it meant wearing a JV shirt or one faded and dirt-stained from the 1990s.

But don't feel sorry for any of these guys. Public school kids know they might not have some private school luxuries, but they never see that as a reason for envy.

Instead, it's usually a source of pride.

"Yuup, public SCHOOL, brah!"

That is where 'Aiea and Kahuku have an edge, Stacy. I'll bet 100 Star-Bulletins that the makai (public school) side of the stadium will be way louder than the mauka. After almost a quarter-century of watching and playing in public school-private school games, I have counted the public schools' record in the "We've got spirit, yes we do ..." cheer as something like 1,244 wins, 0 losses.

Plus, they know how to do it with rhythm, not like the monotone private school fans.

And it's not just the students, parents and alumni who get excited about the public school teams, it's, well, the public. It will be a quiet evening on the North Shore tonight, with more than half the population expected to be on the makai side of Aloha Stadium.

Anybody hoping to shop in La'ie today had better plan ahead, as businesses will shut down early. In Kahuku, now they do parades before the championship game, too.

And remember two years ago, when 'Aiea built a 10-0 record going into the playoffs? Na Ali'i faithful came out in droves, dusting off their pom-poms from the Derek Tatsuno/Gerald Ako days. Ever watch the Channel 2 News whenever any 'Aiea team wins a big game? Joe Moore never lets an opportunity pass to swell with Na Ali'i pride.

But these 'Aiea and Kahuku teams have much more than pride and strong fan support, Stacy. They've got players, good ones.

Na Ali'i quarterback Kali Kuia is the most prolific passer in the state. And he's a nice kid, to boot, a guy who attends seminary at 5:50 every weekday morning. Ben Ah Mook Sang is another all-around good guy for 'Aiea, especially on the field. The kid can run, throw and catch. Running back Raymond Tauala and linebacker Lawrence Leovao are classic Na Ali'i tough guys.

And for kickers, there's Brandon Puckett, who nailed a 49-yard field goal last week against Lahainaluna.

As for Kahuku, is there a public or private school anywhere with better athletes across the board? Any of the seven running backs the Red Raiders regularly use could probably start for half the teams in the state. Quarterback Waika Carvalho can throw and run, and he has two outstanding threats in receiver Spencer Hafoka and tight end Tevita Finau.

Defensively, guys like Shosei Yamauchi (defensive line), Walker Vave (linebacker), Afa Garrigan and Tori Taulogo (secondary) lead a unit that pitched five shutouts and allows only 6.2 points per game.

Historically, private schools usually win these meetings, but this time will be different. Maybe it's my longing for a 45 lunch, maybe it's my secret urge to call my old teachers, "Eh, Mistah!" or "Eh, Miss!" Or maybe, Stacy, 'Aiea and Kahuku are just better.

Yuup, public SCHOOL, brah!

Predictions: 'Aiea 28, Damien 21; Kahuku 27, Saint Louis 24.

Wes Nakama is a proud Son of Iolani and proud lifelong fan of public school football. Reach him at wnakama@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2456.