Asked about Akila Arecchi’s two-way performance in Damien’s win over Pac-Five on Saturday, Monarchs coach Eddie Klaneski was nothing short of effusive.
“That guy is just an all-around guy. He’s just a beast out there,” Klaneski said of the 5-foot-6, 145-pound senior. “He’s small in stature, but the way he plays football is unbelievable. He’s just a gamer offensively and defensively. He sparks us. … He has a good knack for the ball.
“He’s a tough, scrappy guy, doesn’t want to come out of the game. We love that. We wish we had five more of him out there. But we just have to make sure we keep him grounded and just continue to work. He’s been a blessing for us and we just hope he can continue to make huge plays for us on both sides of the ball.”
Hmm, sounds sorta similar to a certain Damien graduate whose fearless play earned him fan-favorite status at the University of Hawaii in the ’90s, first as a slotback then as an All-Western Athletic Conference safety.
Klaneski chuckled at the comparison between himself in his playing days and Arrechi. But like his coach, Arrechi has a penchant for playing bigger than his numbers on the roster.
With Damien off to a ragged start in the first game of Saturday’s ILH doubleheader at Aloha Stadium, Arrechi ignited the Monarchs with a 48-yard interception return for a touchdown. He later caught the third of quarterback Marcus Faufata-Pedrina’s four touchdown passes and the Monarchs rolled to a 39-18 win to improve to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in ILH Division II play.
The Monarchs defense added another touchdown on Kellen Robins-Beers’ 70-yard fumble return in the second quarter on their way to Friday’s showdown with Saint Francis (4-1, 2-0).
“We just started off kinda slow. It took a couple plays on defense to get us energized,” Klaneski said, “and the main thing for us is we have to come out with the win and get back to work. We play Saint Francis next week. That’s going to be the toughest team we’ve played and we have a lot of work to do to get better.”
Faufata-Pedrina continued to put up efficient numbers in completing nine of 14 pass attempts for 177 yards with four touchdowns and an interception. Keoua Kauhi powered the running game in the second half and finished with 105 yards on 15 carries. He caught Faufata-Pedrina’s last TD pass and the Monarchs won their ninth straight meeting with Pac-Five (1-3, 0-2).
Damien split its regular-season series with Saint Francis each of the last two years. Last season’s games were decided by five and three points and Damien pulled out a 20-12 win in the ILH Division II championship game to return to the state tournament.
“We’ve seen what those guys are doing and accomplishing and they’re going to be a tough team to play against,” Klaneski said. “We saw film. We watched them play a bunch of times we’ve got our work cut out for us.
“(Saint Francis coach Kip Akana’s) going to have his boys ready, and we’ll have our boys ready too, so it’s going to be a battle. I think it’s going to be a tough one. We’re just glad to come out of this game pretty healthy and we’ve got a week to prepare and we’re excited about it.”