While Kapaa has started its season with a pair of top-five victories and sits atop the statewide Division II rankings, the Waimea Menehune have begun their 2015 campaign with two impressive wins of their own. Waimea has been the sleeping giant of the KIF of late, waiting to reclaim its position as the elite program after some down years and tough opponents. This weekend, when Pac-Five heads to Hanapepe Stadium, the Menehune can move to 3-0 and head into conference play with even more momentum and confidence.
Waimea’s week one victory over Kaimuki was a fine statement to start the year, but Kaimuki was missing some of its experienced talent because of ineligibility. The Menehune, though, doubled down on that win with a victory over Waiakea, improving to 2-0 for the first time since 2011. That was a turnaround season for Waimea, starting 3-0 and finishing 6-3 with a chance at the KIF title heading into the season’s final week. Kapaa eventually won that conference championship, its first since 1989. But it seemed like a sign of things to come for a very competitive Menehune team.
They have remained competitive since, but those results weren’t sustainable. Waimea came out on the winning side just four times in the past three seasons. But they have already notched a pair of W’s and can thank their old ground-and-pound system for these early results.
In its heyday, Waimea earned the identity of “three yards and a cloud of dust.” They were old school and physical, dominating the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Bear Bryant would have been proud. As the Run & Shoot became a popular offensive system, successfully implemented by June Jones at the University of Hawaii, that plodding style began to appear outdated. The Kauai Red Raiders began a dynasty of their own and used a much more air-centric attack. When they became more and more efficient in that strategy, a slower offense couldn’t compete with their quick-strike capability.
But in their opening games, Waimea has done the majority of its damage on the ground. Cody Taniguchi had over a hundred yards and a pair of rushing scores in the Waiakea victory. He also found the end zone twice — one rushing, one receiving — in the opener against Kaimuki. It’s a little different than having a bruising runner grinding out first downs, but Waimea’s running back has been its primary option to this point.
The Menehune have always been able to find good running backs. This isn’t a new phenomenon. Even on teams that haven’t finished with strong records, they have had running backs with playmaking capabilities. It’s been a part of their system they haven’t abandoned, even as the rest of the conference and state have become more enamored with the passing game. At this point, it seems to be imprinted in the DNA on the Westside, so they should certainly be trying to feature it rather than run away from it.
If Waimea can run on Pac-Five, play defense like they have through two weeks and move to 3-0, they will almost certainly crack into the top 10 of Division II and provide a worthy foil to Kapaa. Even if the Menehune come up short on Saturday, the Warriors better not expect to coast through the KIF just because they have had such highly publicized victories to this point. Though underdogs for most games in recent years, Waimea’s heart has never been questioned. Given a small taste of early success, Waimea’s appetite should be growling after many years starved of satisfaction.
David Simon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.