The Red Raiders are Menehune fans this weekend, as the Kauai High football team’s magic number has shrunk to just one. The Red Raiders (4-0) will clinch the Kauai Interscholastic Federation championship with either one more win or one more loss for the Kapaa Warriors (2-2).
After a 27-0 win over Waimea (0-4) last week, Kauai can now watch from the sidelines and hope the Menehune eliminate Kapaa from KIF contention when the two play Saturday afternoon at Vidinha Stadium.
At 4-0 in KIF play and 6-0 overall, the Red Raiders have regained the familiar position of conference powerhouse. They’re securely buckled and in the driver’s seat for a second straight KIF title and 10th in 11 seasons. Arguing that Red Raider football has been anything other than a dynasty is a futile effort. The KIF has seen its fair share of dynasties, but this one seems to be unique. Kauai has been winning in a variety of ways and with a number of different coaches.
Famous dynasties typically revolve around an identifiable coach with an identifiable approach. Dean Smith at North Carolina, John Wooden at UCLA, Joe Torre with the New York Yankees and, now, Nick Saban at Alabama all conjure specific styles of play and one constant leadership presence.
With Kauai’s football program, we could see four different head coaches win KIF championships in an 11-year span. It began with current Kapaa Warrior head coach Kelii Morgado, who won four straight from 2003 to 2006. Derek Borrero then won four straight from 2007 to 2010. Kapaa won the 2011 crown – its first since 1989 – but Kauai won again in 2012 with Corey Aguano at the helm. Now head coach Tommy John Cox has gotten the Raiders to an unbeaten mark with just two KIF games left to play.
It’s an unusual formula and doesn’t indicate that coaches are unimportant, but that different coaching styles can be successful. People used to believe that a football coach like Pete Carroll, who had so much college success at USC, couldn’t be a great NFL coach with his laid-back personality. While he was mediocre with the New York Jets and New England Patriots, he has proven them wrong by taking the Seattle Seahawks to the NFL’s elite level.
What I think it says most is that coaches must be able to adapt. Having core principles and ideology is certainly ok, but adjusting to personnel and circumstances is just as important. Not only have the Kauai coaches changed, but they have won some titles with an elite passing game – as they did with quarterback Trey Shimabukuro – and some with a steady ground game and stingy defense – as they do now with running back Reggie McFadden and a defense giving up just 5.5 points per game in KIF play.
While writing this column, I typed the term “unidentifiable dynasty” and I felt it sounded dismissive or forgettable, but what I really mean is that what Kauai has done has made it very difficult to categorize and label. From the Run and Shoot to the Pistol to the Spread to the Ground ‘N Pound; trying to describe how Kauai has won so many games is a difficult endeavor. Perhaps its ability to reinvent itself and create success in a variety of ways is the common thread that has been woven through this resilient Red Raider dynasty.
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