Damien has been here too many times before.
The Monarchs go into Saturday night’s main event at Aloha Stadium leading Division II rival ‘Iolani by a game in the standings and can take a big step toward earning a bye for the playoffs with a win.
But if history is any judge, don’t count on it.
Damien has lost to ‘Iolani 12 times in a row and has not finished a game within three touchdowns of the Raiders since 2008, when they lost 27-21 to open the ILH season.
But at least this time they are playing for something. The Monarchs were 0-3 when they met the Raiders last year, and the second game of their annual meeting has involved a Raiders team preparing for states and a Monarchs bunch proudly playing out the string.
The last time Damien met ‘Iolani in a meaningful game this late in the season was 2006, when the Monarchs and Raiders were 1-1-1 after tying in the season opener. Damien stepped up in the big game and won that contest 14-10 — behind Kama Bailey’s 220 rushing yards — to go over .500 but lost their last four games, including a defeat against ‘Iolani to close the season.
The Monarchs have not had a winning season since 2008, when they went 7-5 and won more than they lost for only the second time since the Prep Bowl era began in 1973. They were 7-5-2 in 1988.
Even if the Monarchs surprise ‘Iolani on Saturday, it would take a win in the state tournament for Damien to finish with an overall record above .500. Assuming losses to Kamehameha and Saint Louis, Damien would enter the ILH playoffs with a 4-4 record and would presumably get the bye because of its win over fellow 3-3 ‘Iolani. If it wins the rematch to get into states, Damien would have to win a first-round game at states to finish with more wins than losses.
But the Monarchs are almost certainly not thinking that far ahead. Before dreaming big, they might want to make a statement on Saturday.
ILH Division II remaining schedules
Damien (2-1): vs. Iol, vs. Saint Louis, vs. Kamehameha
‘Iolani (1-2): vs. Damien, vs. Punahou, vs. Pac-Five
Pac-Five (0-2): vs. Kamehameha, vs. St. Francis, vs. Iolani, vs. Punahou
St. Francis (0-2): vs. Punahou, vs. Pac-Five, vs. Kamehameha, vs. Saint Louis