Right attitude lifts Moanalua and Kamehameha-Hawai'i
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By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Wes Nakama
Moanalua High School has had a varsity football program for 33 years, with only five winning seasons. Kamehameha-Hawai'i has had a varsity football program for about 15 months and already has 16 victories, a total Moanalua did not reach until its ninth year.
But when the teams take the field Friday for their Division II state tournament first-round game at Moanalua, it will be equally meaningful for both.
"We're excited, it's a great opportunity for our kids," Moanalua coach Arnold Martinez said. "It means a lot to them, and they can walk around with smiles knowing they've made it this far."
For Kamehameha-Hawai'i, which is in just its fourth year as a school, Friday's game represents an early milestone.
"We want to build our own identity," Warriors coach Ulima Afoa said. "Our brothers up at (Kamehameha's flagship campus in) Kapalama have a long history of football, but we're the new kid on the block and we want to establish something for ourselves."
Moanalua a school where basketball and volleyball have routinely overshadowed football has been trying to establish a winning football tradition for decades. Martinez, a former head coach at Solano (Calif.) Community College, appears to have Na Menehune on the right track.
Moanalua went 1-7 in 2002 the year before he took over and was 2-6 in his first season. Na Menehune are 12-6 since, including an 8-2 record this season.
"When I started here, I saw a lot of potential and our mission was to build self-esteem," Martinez said. "The first thing I told the kids was that there was nothing wrong with them, that it was possible for them to win.
"We stress four things every day: 1. Everybody love each other, 2. Have fun, 3. Execute, and 4. Finish what you start. We also set three goals for every player be the best person, the best student and the best athlete you can be."
After some growing pains in the transition year of 2003, Moanalua reached the .500 mark last season with several narrow defeats.
This year, Na Menehune sprinted out to a 4-0 start the best in school history and had another four-game win streak before last Friday's 9-7 loss to Radford in the OIA White Conference championship game.
"Two years ago, coach came in and set a good example for everybody," said senior linebacker Quinton Tang, who was the OIA White's Defensive Player of the Year last season. "Now we have pride, and the whole school has come together for us."
With Tang leading the defense, and fellow seniors Stanford Leti and John Estoria running the triple-option offense, Moanalua is winning despite most players having to go both ways. But Martinez is not surprised.
"I saw how we could build the team around those three guys and this is what we planned for them as seniors," Martinez said. "But I believe every single kid has potential; we've been blessed with good kids. Our guys are role models when they see trash on campus, they pick it up and throw it away. They're making football 'cool,' and the school is excited."
The same thing is happening at Kamehameha-Hawai'i's campus in Kea'au (about 10 miles south of Hilo) and for many of the same reasons. Afoa, a former standout lineman at Saint Louis School, spent 18 years as an NCAA Division I assistant including 16 at San Diego State and two at Hawai'i.
Like Martinez, he believes winning football games begins with a winning frame of mind.
"The first thing we wanted to instill was a good attitude," Afoa said. "We told the kids that one year is not a winning tradition. It's not so much about wins and losses as it is how you structure the program and how you approach situations, solving problems. If you do that right, the wins will come."
The Warriors went 6-4 in their inaugural season and are 10-2 this year, after a 41-6 victory over Konawaena last Friday for the Big Island Interscholastic Federation DII title.
They are led by seniors Mana Silva (quarterback/defensive back), Danny Kalai (receiver), Leon Peralto (punter/kicker) and two-way linemen Ikaika Mahoe and Ian Dulan.
"The seniors are good role models for the younger players," Afoa said. "Success breeds success."
Reach Wes Nakama at firstname.lastname@example.org.