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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 11, 2006

High and mighty to play ball

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

There's nothing like the view from 30 stories above Honolulu to inspire big-picture perspective.

And, so it was yesterday atop First Hawaiian Bank's main branch, where University of Hawai'i football coach June Jones met with officials from Kahuku High School.

At 429 feet this pretty much met the definition of a summit conference.

On one hand the state's only NCAA football program and, on the other, the Hawai'i High School Athletic Association large school champion Red Raiders breaking bread and building bridges.

After a sometimes stormy period, we're told the state's two football powers have pledged to support each other in their own ways. Word is that the rift that had existed between Jones and ex-Kahuku coach Siuaki Livai is a thing of the past on both campuses.

Whatever fences were left unmended by Jones' surprise appearance at Livai's testimonial last month were apparently tended to during yesterday's closed-door meeting. "Positive and productive," said Keith Amemiya, executive director of the HHSAA who, along with First Hawaiian Bank's Walter Dods and Tony Guerrero, helped broker the summit.

The apparent meeting of the minds and staking of common ground should be good news for all concerned and their fans because as big as both UH and Kahuku are in their own right, they really do need each other.

UH needs the players the perennial power Red Raiders turn out and the fan support that comes with them. To see what Leonard Peters and Tala Esera have meant to the Warriors the last few years and what they could mean in 2006 is to glimpse but a sample of what could be coming UH's way.

With a dozen or so NCAA Division I players a year coming out of the North Shore and another load reportedly on the way, this is a pipeline you want to be close to, not estranged from. When recruiters from Oregon State and Utah, among others, are camping out on campus, UH needs to be aggressively in the mix as well.

By the same token, UH offers opportunities aplenty to the Red Raiders. There is playing at home in front of friends and family, making an enduring name. And, for those able to take the next step, a proven launching pad to the pros.

Truth be told, Jones and his staff have had few quarrels with Kahuku the school or the community over the years. There was the frustration of a recruiting flip-flop two years ago that festered and, ultimately, divided the two then-head coaches.

Now, with Reggie Torres taking over at Kahuku last month, the time was right for a summit and a search for middle ground. And apparently it was found in a session yesterday that, we're told, was nearly as sweet as the sweet potato pie that was on the menu.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8044.