Monarchs coach talks playoff against Red Raiders

When the Monarchs come to Kauai this weekend, they’ll experience a bit of deja vu.

About this time last season, Damien Memorial School’s varsity football team flew to the Garden Isle for a state football semifinal showdown.

They’ll be in the same place this time around. The only difference is they’ll be facing a new opponent.

“It’s funny that it just so happens we have another opportunity to come up to Kauai,” Damien head coach Eddie Klaneski said in a phone interview Thursday. “Playing a different team, but it’s our chance to go up there and (redeem) ourselves from the loss we had last year. We’re just excited, we’re happy, with what we’ve accomplished so far. … But it’s a long road ahead, still.”

Damien (9-3) won its third-consecutive Interscholastic League of Honolulu-Division II championship last weekend with a 13-12 win over Saint Francis School.

With the win, the Monarchs locked up a berth in the First Hawaiian Bank State Football Championships-Division I tournament and will face No. 2 seed Kauai High School (5-3). The semifinal game is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at Vidinha Stadium.

In the state Division II semifinal last year, Damien lost to Kauai Interscholastic Federation’s Kapaa High School, 21-14, at Vidinha.

“We’re happy to get through the season and get our third title. That was our goal,” Klaneski said. “Once we got beat last year playing Kapaa, the first thing we talked about where were we going to be next year. We wanted to come back and make it for the state tournament. So, winning the ILH was our first goal.”

Klaneski said on-lookers can expect speed on defense and variety on offense from his team.

“We’re going to be a very fast, active defense, and a very athletic offense that kind of does a lot of different things — probably a lot more than what people are accustomed to seeing,” he said. “We make adjustments to what people give us offensively. They’re going to see a good running quarterback — a guy who can throw and run the ball. A guy who can do multiple things. And we got some young guys on the skills (positions). But there’s a lot of different things we can do.

“Defensively, we’re going to be a fast team. We’re going to get around the football. We’re going to try to create turnovers and create havoc. We’re pretty stout on special teams, as well. We’re going to do what we got to do to not get beat in that phase of the game, as well. … You’re hopefully going to see a well-coached and well-disciplined team.”

Damien and Saint Francis played four times this year and split the series, 2-2. Earlier this year, Saint Francis defeated Kauai, 42-0, in a preseason game Aug. 12 at Punahou School in Honolulu.

Whether that gives his team the edge over the Red Raiders, Klaneski said he’s not banking on it.

“To me, the preseason is the preseason. We don’t know who was playing at that time or who wasn’t playing — how the chemistry went,” he said. “You can see a very gradual progression of how Kauai High improved throughout the season.

“That (the loss to Saint Francis) could be a whole lot of different things. I watched a little bit of that game. There were some things that happened, mistakes that happened, that easily could be corrected. … I don’t do the comparing scores thing. I just look at what’s most recent and what’s more today. They’re a much-improved team from that point on, and so was Saint Francis and so are we.”

Come Saturday, the Monarchs will aim to accomplish what the team couldn’t do last season — walk out of Vidinha Stadium with a win and advance to the championship game.

“It’s a great thing to be able to use as a little bit of motivation, a little bit of fire, for our kids,” Klaneski said. “We’re excited for the opportunity. We’re put in a better situation this year. We’re going to travel the night before rather than that day. … It’s going to be a little bit better preparation for us.

“We know the situation there. We know what we may encounter as we play the game,” he added. “A bunch of our seniors and juniors who played in the game last year, they’re going to have the same experience. They’re going to know the stadium. They’re going to know the field. The conditions, they’re going to know all that stuff. So, that’s kind of a plus for us.”

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