High school football, Week 1: Part Deux

Remember the XFL? Yes, the football league that wrestling mogul Vince McMahon created to compete against the NFL. Remember the first XFL game when the very first play – a race from the end zone to midfield to determine which team would have the first possession – resulted in a player tearing his ACL? That was a pretty bad way to start a season and I’m sure McMahon would have liked a do-over.

Well we all thought last week was going to be Week 1 of the high school football season, but Mother Nature had other plans. The anticipated inclement weather from Hurricane Iselle forced postponement of all three Kauai Interscholastic Federation preseason games, so we instead get a do-over this weekend.

One of last week’s postponed games, Kauai vs. Damien, has been rescheduled (7 p.m., August 23, Vidinha Stadium) but the other two – Kapaa vs. Nanakuli; Waimea vs. Anuenue – have not. That’s because Nanakuli, Anuenue and the rest of the Oahu Interscholastic Association begin their regular season this weekend.

So Saturday will be the new 2014 season kickoff and the Kapaa Warriors will be sharing the Garden Isle spotlight. Kapaa opens up against the Lunas of Lahainaluna (7 p.m., Saturday, Vidinha Stadium), which is a major challenge for the Warriors in their first game action. Lahainaluna finished 10-1 last season, losing only to Div. II champion Kaiser in the state semifinals. It will be almost a year to the day since the Lunas beat the Warriors, 28-13, at Maui’s War Memorial Stadium during last preseason.

Kapaa’s offense will have new faces in a number of key positions after graduating its top two quarterbacks (Fresno Masaniai, Turtle Kuhaulua) as well its two leading receivers (Kaikea Sonoda, Kanai Thronas-Kahoonei) and leading rusher (Leevi Bethel). After a 4-4 record in 2013, the Warriors are a team to keep an eye on in both the KIF and among the top teams in Div. II.

The Menehune will be kicking off at the same time (7 p.m., Saturday, Hanapepe Stadium) when they take on Ka Makani of Hawaii Prep. HPA is coming off of an 8-3 season and topped Waimea, 13-8, last preseason on the Big Island. If Waimea’s spring game and depth chart are an indication, senior quarterback Patrick Keamoai-Strickland will have every opportunity to lead the Menehune offense this season. He seemed to have a rapport with sophomore receiver Ardino Ned, who is also listed as a quarterback, during the Blue-White game.

Like Kapaa, this Waimea team is relatively inexperienced, but there are many familiar names on the roster. Last names, that is. A number of younger siblings and relatives of previous Menehune squads highlight what is an intriguing team, so you can expect to again hear the names Rapacon, Delos Reyes and Emayo still echo over the loud speaker, just with some different first names.

The defending champion Kauai Red Raiders get the only road date of the week, heading to the Big Island to take on the Konawaena Wildcats (7 p.m., Saturday, Kona). Trying to follow up a one-loss season that ended with a runner-up finish in the state tournament will be tough enough for Kauai High, but opening against Konawaena makes it that much more difficult. The Wildcats went 9-3 last season but were trounced, 59-6, by Kaiser in the state quarterfinals. The Raiders fared better against Kaiser, holding a 7-0 lead in the state championship before losing that game, 17-7.

This marks the final season for Kauai head coach Tommy John Cox, who has said he’ll give it one more go before stepping aside and moving his focus toward his family. 

His Red Raider squad no longer has standout linebacker James Bukoski, as well as quarterback Kelson Andrade or running back Reggie McFadden.

But one thing we know about Kauai High is that year after year, they’ve displayed that “next man up” attitude that has produced 10 KIF titles in the past 11 seasons.

There doesn’t appear to be any unforeseen weather crashing the party over the next 48 hours, so I must ask: Are you ready for some football?

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David Simon can be reached at dsimon@thegardenisland.com.

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