HANAPEPE – They earned 10 straight Kaua’i Interscholastic Federation (KIF) titles. In six games last year, they swept the league in points, 189-14. They advanced to the semi-final round of the 2001 HHSAA Championships and were ranked among the top four football teams in the State.
As a result, the Waimea High School football program’s team roster, which harbored just under 29 varsity players in its 2001 campaign, has ballooned to 41.
Some say these reasons and more make the upcoming season a no-brainer. They predict there is no doubt Waimea will saunter listlessly to its 11th consecutive KIF title in 2002.
But that’s not Jon Kobayashi talking.
The Menehune head coach refuses to take this season lightly. He insists the pending year will be anything but an effortless trip to the State Championships.
“Kapa’a has numbers, talent and a new staff. We don’t know what they have in store for this year,” said Kobayashi. “And Kaua’i has a talented jayvee team coming up, and Coach [Kelii] Morgado has done a good job instilling his style of football in the Red Raider program.”
“We still have a lot of work to do to prepare for this season.”
Kobayashi says the Menehunes have been training since the beginning of the summer and that, although camp was successful, the team still needs work.
“We lost half of our team to graduation and we have a lot of new faces,” said Kobayashi. “Our camp showed us our weaknesses, and we are currently working on them.”
The coach, who led Waimea to nine straight league titles, admits his team has increased in size and has talent.
Lanikai Kanahele (6’2″ 280) will provide size and quickness to the Menehune as tight end and offensive lineman.
Returnees DB/F Dane Koga, RB/LB Gary Mata and QB/DB Cory Rita, among others, will maintain on both sides of the ball.
Waimea will have six linemen with over 200-pounds of bulk, including Nalu Mata, Sanjay Morton, Nathan Dickenson, Austin Alquiza and Kalae Durant, to name a few. Brandon Ishibashi, Jesse Cabatan Gary Pavao and Fia Moe round out the depth in the Menehune line.
Junior running back and linebacker Jordon Dizon, with improved speed and experience, will be the key to the Menehune ground assault, as he was in last year’s campaign.
And quarterback Jon Polacio, a back-up to Adrian Agan in 2001, will lead the offense in 2002.
Look for ex-jayvee members to step up, as well. Waimea’s system is taught as early as Pop Warner and is refined through the varsity program. Kobayashi agrees this system helps prepare players coming into the Menehune program, but says there are still things the boys need to learn when they reach this level.
“We are fortunate to have the younger football programs learning our system,” said Kobayashi. “But that doesn’t mean they’re fully ready for the varsity level once they get to that point. There is always much more they need to learn.”
For now, Kobayashi’s goals are simple:
“Most importantly, we need to achieve unity and ohana on this team,” he said. “We need to be a family, we need to depend on each other.”
“Our other goal is, of course, to win the KIF.”
The Menehunes got a good start this preseason. They beat Hilo 45-0 on the Big Island Friday night. They will next play Kamehameha Aug. 30 in a preseason bout in Honolulu. Kamehameha is considered the frontrunner for the 2002 State title.