Head coach Eddie Klaneski‘s hair was wet after Damien wrapped up the Interscholastic League of Honolulu Division II championship with a 28-16 win over Pac-Five on Saturday at Aloha Stadium.
It wasn’t raining, so it was most likely a Gatorade bath or some other such celebratory device that comes with winning the school’s first football title in 12 years.
Cal Lee‘s hair was wet after No. 2 Saint Louis got past No. 1 Punahou 30-14 in the nightcap at the stadium.
It was raining. No Gatorade bath for Cal. Not yet. That was just one win to get the Crusaders into the ILH D-I title game against the same Punahou club next Saturday. They need one more to get their first league title and state tournament berth since 2010. The rain? Probably a blessing for Lee, who we all know — unless you are new to the state — is the most successful coach in Hawaii high school history.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Klaneski, who has been Damien’s head coach since 2011. “The boys got down and came back and didn’t give up. This was a very big win for our football program.”
Big wins for Damien are few and far between. Two really big wins came in that 2003 season, when the Monarchs beat Kapolei 20-14 in the first round of the state tournament, then traveled to Kauai and beat Waimea 17-13. That put them in the state D-II title game — the first one ever held — and it was close, but Aiea prevailed 9-7.
Since then, it’s been second fiddle to ‘Iolani every year for Damien. Now, the Raiders are in Division I, and it’s the Monarchs who are filling that void.
Monarchs quarterback Marcus Faufata-Pedrina talked about building a “legacy” that other Damien players can build on through the years.
Legacy, like Lee built at Saint Louis, winning 14 straight titles (13 Prep Bowls and one state crown) from 1986 to 1999 and 15 overall.
It wasn’t that long ago that these two teams were competing for the same league title, with the results turning out to be just what the doctor ordered for those in charge to make the two levels — D-I and D-II. Saint Louis beat Damien 83-0 and 68-0 in 1998 and then 82-0 in 1999. It was 84-0 in 2000 and 69-0 in 2001.
Something had to give.
Classify. Classify. Classify. That’s what happened. First the ILH and then the state under Keith Amemiya. Sensibility prevailed.
Saint Louis got some help Saturday night from six Punahou turnovers, including three fumbles by Wayne Taulapapa. One of those fumbles came at the 1, and had Taulapapa actually scored instead of coughing it up, it would have been a 21-0 Punahou lead.
From there, the Crusaders played lights out in every aspect and they now have the momentum going into next week’s championship game. Isaac Slade-Matautia was one of the standouts on defense, making a hit that caused a fumble and also recovering another fumble. Michael Malepeai contributed on the defensive end with a safety, when he sacked Buffanblu quarterback Ephraim Tuliloa in his own end zone.
When Lee was approached after the game and told that his team looked impressive in the second half, he was sure to qualify it with, “Yeah, but don’t go thinking we’re perfect. We’re far from that.”
It will be a battle royale next week. Saint Louis, likely to go up from No. 2 to No. 1 in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser poll on Monday, against the Buffanblu, probably the No. 2 team after the loss.
Earlier in the season, Punahou won a 51-45 thriller over Saint Louis in double overtime.
For the new Division II champion Monarchs, there will be three weeks to prepare for the states.
“There are a lot of good teams in the BIIF, MIL, KIF and OIA,” Klaneski said. “We know we’ll have good competition. We’ll find out who we play and prepare for them.”