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Excitement in the air; KIF season kicking off

There’s no saving the best for last in the Kaua’i Interscholastic

Federation football season this year.

Quite the opposite, in fact.

When Vindinha Stadium comes alive Friday night at 7:30 p.m. to host the

KIF opener between Waimea and Kapa’a, even the seas may settle with

anticipation.

Despite the Warriors’ 0-6 league finish in 1999, the new

millennium’s first campaign brings a new coach and fresh attitude to Kapa’a’s

sideline.

On the flipside, little has changed on Waimea’s side of the

ball. The Menehunes still want to run over foes like wild horses, and simply

outwork their opponents.

“I always told myself that things would get

better,” Waimea coach Jon Koboyashi said, “always thought that, after eight

years, my nerves and excitement would (subside).

“But it hasn’t. I haven’t

slept well for the last week.”

How could he? He and the Menehunes hit the

field with the intent of repeating as KIF champs for the ninth time in a row.

Koboyashi has won the title in each of his years at the Waimea helm.

It is

a different story at Kapa’a, where the Warriors have experienced some tumult

over the past couple of years. In place now sits first-year head coach Gordon

Muramaru, pulled up from the the jayvee ranks where he guided the Warriors’

junior team to a 6-0 mark. Many players from Muramaru’s 1999 squad have

accompanied him to the varsity level.

“That crop they had on the jayvee

level last year,” Koboyashi said, “they beat up the Waimea jayvee pretty

good.”

Of course, the Menehunes have retained a sizeable portion of their

KIF championship team of last season. They won’t, however, benefit Friday night

from the services of senior-tailback Jessie Sablan. Noted as the best player on

the island by many, including Kaua’i High School coach Keli’i Morgado, Sablan

will sit out with an ankle injury, according to Koboyashi.

“He may be out

for the first round,” the coach said. A round would signify facing Kapa’a and

Kaua’i one time each. “We’re hoping that’s not the case, though.”

By his

coach’s prediction, Sablan wouldn’t return to action until Waimea’s Sept. 29

match-up against Kapa’a.

Not that the Warriors will take Sablan’s absence

for granted.

“We’re ready for play,” Muramaru said. “We’ve hit each other

enough. It’s time for us to play.”

Muramaru said his players’ focus is

good. That includes starting quarterback Dustin Mundon. Just a sophomore, the

5-9, 160 pounder, Muramaru said, is ready for his first varsity

start.

“He’s got a good bloodline,” the coach said. “The Mundons are known

for their athletic ability, so he’ll be ready.”

As will the crew from

Waimea.

Koboyashi said he has been stressing “brain work” for the last

couple of days. The coaching staff has taken some of the edge off the practice

field and moved it into the classroom.

“We’ve been reviewing films and

going over our scouting reports,” Koboyashi said. “We’re looking for tendencies

and other advantages we can pick up.”

Through that scouting, Koboyashi said

he and his troops have picked up some valuable tips.

“We’re really going to

have to be wary of their No. 20 (Dahson Gonzales),” Koboyashi said. “He’s

probably as good or better than Jessie at the position.

“He’s got great

feat, and he’s just as big as Jessie.”

High praise for Gonzales, a junior

tailback.

Of course, it is the Menehunes’ backfield again stirring the

biggest pot for 2000. Even without Sablan, Waimea brings newcomer Josh May to

the field. The 5-10, 200-pound back proved himself in the preseason, and,

Koboyashi said, should fill Sablan’s absence nicely.

“Our offensive line

has done a really nice job, too,” Koboyashi said. “I think our young men will

be up for the challenge (of playing without Sablan).

“We played Kona

without him.”

And Waimea prevailed 23-0. That, a week after defeating

Punahou 20-13 at Hanapepe Stadium.

Kapa’a fell to Lahainaluna 20-7 in its

preseason opener, then went on the road to defeat Honoka’a 27-7 the following

week.

“We’re looking for a full house,” Muramaru said. “It should be packed

at the stadium.

With both teams’ fans.

“We always get great support

from our fans,” Koboyashi said. “The Waimea contingent gets to our games. We

really appreciate that.”

It’s time for high school football again. The

nerves say so.

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