Pair of W’s sets great tone for Kapaa, Waimea

Both did it with defense and both came away with statement victories in their respective team openers. The Kapaa Warriors and Waimea Menehune pulled off big wins against some talented opponents on their way to 1-0 starts this past weekend. Those same defensive characteristics will need to be remain intact if they are to continue to improve their records, but for now, the Kauai Interscholastic Federation is more than holding its own in Division II.

In a game that was to determine the state’s top-ranked D-II squad, Kapaa came out and clamped down on its Nanakuli opponent. While the Golden Hawks were without a number of their players, due to both injury and ineligibility suspensions, they were stifled by Kapaa’s swarming defense. The Warriors cruised to a 20-2 win, not allowing the Hawks offense any maneuverability.

Their defensive prowess has become this team’s calling card since Kapaa began to gain steam over the last handful of seasons. While some offensive highlights have been sprinkled into their big wins, the defense has been Kapaa’s backbone. Its dominance in the trenches and at the line of scrimmage is its calling card. Nobody goes into a game against the Warriors thinking they’ll have themselves an easy night. Or if they do, their thinking is corrected very quickly.

That was once the case with Waimea and after their 13-0 win over Kaimuki on Friday, it might be a smart concept for schools to re-adopt. The Menehune have been in rebuilding mode but this could be the signature win Coach Jason Caldeira and the Waimea program can hang their hat on moving forward. Like Nanakuli, Kaimuki was without some of its starters who could not meet eligibility requirements, but the Menehune also had to put their players on the field. Those who suited up completely stifled the Bulldogs, who hail from the OIA.

So in two battles of the KIF vs. the OIA, Kauai’s teams came away with a pair of victories, allowing no offensive points and outscoring their opponents by a 33-2 margin. Eligibility aside, that’s still quite a statement.

The Warriors now enter the second week of the preseason with the top ranking in Division II, according the ScoringLive power poll. That’s impressive. That’s meaningful. Even if the entire island of Oahu was sidelined with the chicken pox that would still be a feat to be proud of. But Kapaa has earned that distinction through its heart and execution from 2014 that has spilled over into its victory over the previously top-ranked Golden Hawks.

But as Coach Phillip Rapozo noted before the Nanakuli game, it can be easier as the underdog. He liked that his team went in as No. 2 against No. 1. It gave them something to reach for; a higher rung to grasp.

Now he and the Warriors go from underdog to top dog. As most champions will tell you, it’s a lot harder to stay at the top than to get to the top. Kapaa is still a long way from being a champion, but they do hold the target at the moment. There isn’t anyone else to climb above, only all the teams hoping to knock them off the pedestal. They are now looking down rather than looking up, which can sometimes feel even more daunting.

Waimea’s challenge is to build upon this win and continue its upward momentum. The situation has been the same the past two seasons. The Menehune won their 2013 opener against Anuenue and their 2014 opener against Hawaii Prep. Each was thought to be a sign of things to come, but Waimea struggled mightily the rest of 2013 and was competitive but unable to finish off games in 2014. It’s another tall order for Waimea in 2015, having to face the top-ranked team in D-II three times and a Kauai High team with an experienced coach returning to the sidelines three more times. But that’s the path the Menehune must walk to eventually return to their glory days of the turn of the century.

It was as good a Week 1 as the KIF could have asked for, given the results. Any sort of kid brother mentality should be stricken from our collective consciousness as the KIF is putting the rest of Division II on notice. Remaining consistent with that message is now the difficult task at hand.

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

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