Football season starts today

After months of off-season workouts, several weeks of fall camp

and countless hours spent in the weight room, KIF football teams

hit the gridiron for the first time this week to begin the 2011

season.

Editor’s note: For more in-depth team previews, rosters and schedules, look for the Sports Planner in the Sunday, Aug. 28 issue of The Garden Island.

After months of off-season workouts, several weeks of fall camp and countless hours spent in the weight room, KIF football teams hit the gridiron for the first time this week to begin the 2011 season.

While eight-time KIF Champion Kaua‘i High School is still the team to beat until proven otherwise, Kapa‘a and Waimea have drastically closed the gap and are looking to unseat the Red Raiders on the throne of Kaua‘i football dominance. All three teams begin the season this weekend with non-conference games off-island. Here is The Garden Island’s team by team breakdown.

Kaua’i Red Raiders

The eight-time defending KIF Champion Kaua‘i High School Red Raiders begin their quest for title number nine with a new coach on the controls.

Corey Aguano takes over the storried program this season after the school declined to renew the contract of former head coach Derek Borrero.

While Aguano has some big shoes to fill, don’t expect the Kaua’i High juggernaut to miss a beat because of a new coach.

Aguano was an offensive assistant last season and takes over a team that he is already familiar with.

“There are huge expectations for this program,” Aguano said. “I would consider not winning it all this year a failure on my part.”

Although Aguano knows the system and what works and what doesn’t, he plans on changing a few things up this season. He plans on abandoning last season’s Wishbone offense in favor of a spread. He said he has a strong core of athletic, talented players that should be able to run all over the field.

“It really should be able to open it up, but we still plan on using the run about half the time,” Aguano said.

In addition to the Red Raiders finding themselves in a new offensive scheme, Aguano said he’s looking for players to step up into leadership roles on the team.

“All I can do is coach,” he said. “I’m really looking to the seniors to be role models for the younger guys so they feed off of them.”

The Red Raiders begin their quest for another championship season tonight against Kam-Hawai‘i in Kamehameha.

Kapa’a Warriors

Last season the Kapa’a Warriors fell short of obtaining the elusive KIF title. This  year the Warriors have reloaded and are hoping they have what it takes to finally eclipse the Red Raiders for football dominance.

“I just keep reminding the guys how it felt to come so close last year,” Kapa’a head coach Keli‘i Morgado said. “Every time there’s a swell, or they’re too tired I just remind them how they felt last year.”

After beating Kaua‘i earlier in the season, the Warriors suffered a heart-wrenching 14-13 loss in late October that propelled Kaua‘i to the season title.

While it may have seemed like a loss of a season for the Warriors, the ability to hang with the Red Raiders — and even beat them — has put a fresh hunger in the team.

“Once you win or start to become competitive you have a target on you,” Morgado said. “We just got to figure out what it’s like to get on top.”

The Warriors will be led by a strong returning group on the defense. Morgado said he has a lot of strength with the defensive backs and his linebackers are a talented group.

“I feel good about our defense and think we can build a lot of success off of it,” Morgado said.

The Warrior offense will see a lot of turnover from the previous season. Morgado said he lost a lot of seniors, but has seen the replacements make improvements over the last several months.

Last year the Warriors feasted on the run, and with a strong core of big athletic offensive linemen this year, it looks like the team can do that again — if Morgado wants to.

“I’m traditionally a run and shoot guy but last year we pounded the ball,” he said. “We’ll go back to a little more run and shoot but I’m happy to know coming in that we can pick our poison.”

The Warriors will find out if this season is theirs, starting Saturday night against Kalani High School at Aloha Stadium on O‘ahu.

Waimea Menehune

It’s been a tough several season for the Waimea High School Menehune. Once the dominant team on island, the Menehune have patrolled the cellar of the KIF for the last few years. Although the record may not indicate it, the Menehune have made drastic improvements under head coach Keali‘i Aguiar, on and off the field.

“We want to win like everyone else, but we have to do it the right way,” Aguiar, who took over the program in 2009, said. “In 2009 we had nine guys not eligible because of grades. In the last two years we’ve had maybe one or two.”

Aguiar hopes that the strong emphasis on the classroom will eventually translate to the field.

With more players on the field, Aguiar said this year the Menehune are looking to jump into contention.

Like in past seasons, the Waimea bread and butter will be the ground attack. With the other two schools specializing in the air attack, Aguiar said the Menehune will fight and scratch for every yard possible.

“We’re alright with three yards and a cloud of dust,” he said. “If the other teams want to air it out, that’s fine. They’ll have to prepare for two types of offenses when we’ll just have the one.”

 Aguiar said the offensive line will be a strength for the Menehune this season and that his defense is filled with “team first” types of players.

Whether this will be the year that the Menehune return to formability is yet uncertain, but Aguiar said his players are working hard and that’s the start.

“The wins will come if you put forth the effort,” Aguiar said. “We like being an underdog because we have nothing to lose.”

The Menehune take on Waiakea Saturday in Hilo.

• Tyson Alger, sports writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 237) or by emailing talger@ thegardenisland.com. Follow him on twitter.com/tysonalger.

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