• Red Raider Reign
Red Raider Reign
By Duane Shimogawa Jr. – The Garden Island
“Let’s go four more quarters,” a Waimea fan yelled as the clock struck goose eggs across the scoreboard at Hanapepe Stadium on Friday night, with the Red Raiders locking up their third straight KIF crown.
It was as classic as any high school football game I’ve seen in my life. It had all the makings of a show that should be used on ESPN’s Classic Sports Network.
Even though the Menehune would only tie up the KIF standings with a win, it still felt as if they were playing to clinch the title. Both coaches had their players ready for the contest from the start. The 22-18 final tally isn’t really a good indication of how close it was.
Both teams’ star players shown brightly on a perfect night for a high school football game. The Friday night lights were blaring from the depths of Hanapepe, with the field as packed as a surf shop offering free surfboards.
Waimea senior Kenny Estes has proven to be one of the best to ever come out of the Menehune program. His outstanding skills were on full display, as he kicked a KIF record breaking field goal of 50 yards and it could’ve gone farther, possibly even over 60 yards. He even kicked two more FG’s of 36 and 32 yards.
But his two legs together are just as lethal. He ran for 71 yards on 14 carries. Young Kalen Fleming, only a sophomore, made his varsity debut at quarterback on Friday and despite the loss, played a heck of a game. His presence at the QB spot will be extremely useful in years to come for the Menehune. The Menehune defense, led by Mackey Dela Cruz, Nash Danley, Bryson Vea, Blayne Vea, and Julio Flores were tough customers throughout the season.
For the Red Raiders, Pono Matthews, a first-year transfer from O’ahu, saved his best performance for last. Matthews ran for 51 yards on 13 carries and scored a TD. He also passed for 65 yards on 11-13 attempts.
“It feels good. This was my first year at Kaua’i High and we just played as a family and we all stuck together,” Matthews said after game.
The emotions were running high for both the Menehune and the Red Raiders, but going in different directions.
Kaua’i head coach Keli’i Morgado’s smile on Friday night could’ve probably been seen from Hanalei.
With numerous individuals praising him for taking home a third straight KIF crown, he still had the presence in mind to make sure that his players thanked their families after the game.
“It feels incredible. It’s been two huge weeks for us. We have a really tight team,” Morgado said.
He has said in the past that his defense is the best in the league and on Friday, they came through for the Red Raiders once again.
“Our defense had to lead this team. Offensively we only had two returning starters, so they (defense) were very important to us,” Morgado said.
Caylen Wada, Sean Thompson, Kevin Holtzman, Preston Ramson, Raymond Jerves, and Daniel Joao were the usual suspects for Kaua’i’s tough defensive unit. On offense, the altnerating quarterback system ultimately worked for Kaua’i.
Tron Rule, Kainoa Lemke, Matthews, and Andrew Renaud deserve credit for keeping the most important component of the Red Raider system on full throttle.
But they were helped immensely by running-back Jonathan Rellin, who amassed 67 yards on the ground on 12 carries on Friday.
So now that the Red Raiders tackled three straight KIF crowns, the first time since 1955-1957 (Champ Ono), it’s now time to start the debate if they’re recent run is a dynasty or not?