Rivalry turns to respect for coaches Lee, Semones
By Kyle Sakamoto
Advertiser Staff Writer
|Players like Cal Lee's laid-back style. "He acts and looks like a championship coach," says receiver Nian Taylor.
Photos by Eugene Tanner The Honolulu Advertiser
|Doug Semones brings energy and enthusiasm.|
How two coaches who built high school football powerhouses and went head-to-head in four O'ahu Prep Bowls could be together on the same team.
In sports, never say never.
Lee and Semones will take the field together Sunday when the Hawaiian Islanders host the Green Bay Blizzard in the arenafootball2 opener for both teams at Blaisdell Arena.
Lee was introduced as Islanders head coach on Oct. 23, and he retained Semones as defensive coordinator and special teams coach.
When thinking about the pair, it's hard to forget the rivalry between Semones' Kahuku High School and Lee's Saint Louis School teams. They met in the Prep Bowl in 1989 and 1993-'95. Saint Louis won each game, including the final two by a combined seven points.
"I always had a lot of respect for Coach Lee," said Semones, who worked as an assistant coach at the University of Hawai'i in 1996. "We competed hard against him and I always wanted to beat him in the Prep Bowl. Now that I'm working with him I have a lot of respect for him, I'm enjoying it and it's going great."
The two have different styles. Lee is laidback, Semones is vocal and in-your-face.
"Cal Lee is a real cool, calm cat," said Islanders receiver/defensive back Nian Taylor. "He's just calm and mellow. He acts and looks like a championship coach. So maybe he can take us to the Promise Land like he did in previous years (at Saint Louis)."
Quarterback Darnell Arceneaux also played for Lee at Saint Louis.
"He's one of those guys you don't want to disappoint, you don't want to see his fiery side," Arceneaux said. "He's such a motivator and teacher, if you make a mistake he won't get up on your butt."
At practices Semones is constantly on the move, animated and yelling instructions.
"He comes to practice enthusiastic, a lot of energy, he's got great rapport with the players," said Lee, who resigned at Saint Louis in November 2001. "Things I really expected that he did when he was at the high school level."
Since Semones and linebackers/fullbacks coach Darren Hernandez are the only coaches who were part of the Islanders' 5-11 inaugural season, Lee has approached them for help.
"There are some things that are different between 11-man football and 8-man football so we've discussed some of the rules, things with substitutions, some scheming and what other teams have done," Semones said. "Cal has asked us some of the things we did last year, what worked and what didn't work."
Semones shared defensive coordinator duties with Al Noga last season when the Islanders gave up 53.5 points and 270 yards per game. But Semones is more confident after a full af2 season.
"Having a year of experience with the game, I just feel so much more confident defensively about what to do and what works," Semones said. "Our personnel has also improved greatly. We have a lot more speed out here and guys that can run and cover and that's the key to this game."
Among the top players on defense are linebacker Robert Kemfort (36 tackles) and hard-hitting defensive back Chris Paogofie (34 tackles, four fumble recoveries).
Semones' special teams will be led by kick returners Taylor (28 returns, 21.5 average) and Darrell Jones (50, 21.5), and kicker Kimo Naehu (6 of 13 on field-goal attempts).
Notes: There is no TV or radio coverage planned for this season. ... The Islanders are in the National West Division with the Bakersfield Blitz, San Diego Riptide and Wichita Stealth. ... The expansion Green Bay Blizzard are in the National Midwest Division. ... There are 27 teams in af2, down from 34 a year ago. ... Islanders tickets are available at Blaisdell Center box office, all Ticketmaster outlets and selected Foodland/Sack N Save locations. Tickets are also available at www.ticketmaster.com or charge-by-phone at (808) 526-4400. Blaisdell Arena and Ticketmaster will charge applicable service fees to each ticket. For more information, call the Islanders office at 532-7362.
WHAT: Arenafootball2 eason opener
WHO: Hawaiian Islanders vs. Green Bay Blizzard
WHEN: Sunday, 6:05 p.m.
WHERE: Blaisdell Arena
TICKETS: Admission is $10 upper level (unreserved) for adults and $7 ages 4-17. Lower level is sold out.