Menehune experience on display at spring game

HANAPEPE — With plenty of changes occurring within the other two programs, the Waimea Menehune have many of their playmakers returning for the 2011 Kaua‘i Interscholastic Federation football season. They showed off their collection of talent Friday night during the annual Blue/White spring scrimmage at Hanapepe Stadium.

Returning offensive players include starting quarterback Niko Delos Reyes, running back Alika Emayo, running back and linebacker Devan Banasihan-Kenney, wide receiver and defensive back Jonathon Tangalin and tight end Kyle Fleming — but the star of the night turned out to be defensive back Cy Corona, who had three interceptions, taking one 60 yards to the house for a touchdown.

The White team came away with a 20-14 win in the entertaining start to the Menehune season.

“I thought we hit well, we didn’t really wrap up and tackle as well as we’d like to, but I thought we heard some pads popping,” said Head Coach Keali‘i Aguiar after the game. “Our offensive line came off the ball really quick. Our running backs hit their tracks, hit their hole. I think we’ve got to fix our passing game, but you know what? We’re Waimea, we like to run the crap out the ball.”

The head coach, entering his third year in charge of the program, said the offensive line needs to get a little better in its pass protection, which should then allow the quarterbacks enough time to properly go through their progressions.

“We’ve just got to make sure we all show up to work, with our hard hats and our lunch pail,” he said. “This summer’s going to be a short one. We want to look to get ready for the preseason and just go from there.”

The Kaua‘i Red Raiders head into 2011 with a new head coach, a new quarterback and a host of new starters and the Kapa‘a Warriors graduated the majority of their offensive playmakers. Waimea’s experience gives it as much, if not more continuity than its competitors.

“I don’t know the exact number of seniors returning, but I know the ones that are returning, they’re in key positions,” Aguiar said. “I think defensively, we are going to have a senior-heavy team.”

That familiarity could be the necessary factor for the Menehune to improve in the 2011 standings.

“A lot of our guys have been in the program with us for three, four years,” he said. “So they know who we are, they know what to expect, they know what practice is going to be like. Nothing’s changed from day one when we came on board two years ago to now. So I think having the seniors that have been with us from the beginning, that’s going to help us out a lot.”

The scoring got started early in the first quarter, when Emayo finished off the opening drive with a 10-yard touchdown run. He had just picked up 17 yards on the previous play, following a third-down conversion pass from Delos Reyes to Tangalin.

A failed two-point conversion put the Blue team up 6-0 with 7:30 to play in the first.

The White team pulled ahead mid-way through the second, when Banasihan-Kenney scored on a three-yard touchdown run. He then followed it up with a plunge into the end zone on the two-point attempt, putting White ahead 8-6 with 6:38 left in the opening half.

They quickly added to that lead when Corona came up with his first interception of Delos Reyes. White quarterback Keoni Ana then dropped a perfect pass right into the arms of Corona for a 28-yard gain to set up a 1st and Goal. Ana scored on a quarterback keeper for a 14-6 lead with 3:16 left in the second.

Blue threatened to add points when Emayo busted a 30-yard run to the White 23 with 19 seconds left in the half, but Corona came up with his second pick of Delos Reyes on a long pass to the end zone.

The third quarter featured more of the same, when Corona nabbed his third interception of Delos Reyes, this time finishing the play in style with a 60-yard return for a touchdown. The failed conversion put White ahead 20-6 with 6:31 left in the third.

As the rains came down heavily in the fourth quarter, the Blue team got within a score when Delos Reyes hit Emayo with a pretty screen pass and the running back did the rest, scrambling for a 34-yard score. Delos Reyes got in for the conversion, making it a 20-14 game, which stood up for the final.

The Blue team’s defense made plays in the backfield thanks to penetration from Kamalei Compoc Dela Cruz, Cullen Gutierrez and Kaelin Lopez.

The White defense had trouble containing Emayo, but Banasihan-Kenney, Acetyn Emayo, Chava Delos Reyes and Ana all made plays around the line of scrimmage.

The game was four 12-minute quarters, with a running clock. Coaches lined themselves up on the field behind the offense to get a better look at their players’ execution.

Special teams play was especially effective, with both units giving up zero return yards for the game. Of course, there were just return men and the kicker on the field, with no run backs allowed.

The final spring scrimmage will take place tonight when the Red Raiders give their fans a glimpse at their future, beginning at 7 p.m. at Vidinha Stadium.

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