Under the sun, championship trophies and mint-condition football helmets are glorious.
Especially at Aloha Stadium on a gorgeous, sunny and breezy day. Six teams will compete for three state titles on Saturday. Today’s press conference featured four of the six head coaches. Open Division coaches Cal Lee of Saint Louis and Makoa Freitas of Kahuku were not able to attend.
Division I title-game coaches Kaeo Drummondo of Hilo and Eddie Klaneski of Damien were there, however. So were D-II title-game coaches Brad Uemoto of Konawaena and Garret Tihada of Lahainaluna.
There will be extensive coverage in the Star-Advertiser and Hawaii Prep World leading into Saturday’s title tripleheader. Damien and Hilo in the D-I final, this is a first.
“This is where we wanted to be,” Klaneski said, glancing at the field. “We have senior boys who guide our younger ones. Playing Hilo, it’s a situational thing. They’re similar to St. Francis.”
His senior-heavy offensive line and linebacker corps provided great stability through the tough ILH D-II season. So did his poised quarterback, Marcus Faufata-Pedrina. Hilo has its share of seniors, as well, many of them part of a very mobile O-line and linebacker crew. They teams aren’t exactly mirror images, but there are core similarities.
“It’s going to take 11. (Faufata-Pedrina) is a playmaker. I’ve been watching the film for the past couple of weeks, and he’s special. We need 11 bodies to try and contain him, and make as uncomfortable as possible,” Drummondo said. “All around, the whole team is balanced, and we need to make sure we’re in position to make a play.”
Meanwhile, the MIL’s perennial D-II champion, Lahainaluna, is the top seed and preparing for a clash with Konawaena. The Lunas won their first D-II state title last season.
“I think we did a good job of not talking about it or thinking about last year’s team,” co-head coach Garret Tihada said. “There is a little bit of pressure, but I don’t really see an upside to it.”
Konawaena has run the table since losing twice in preseason. The Wildcats were explosive in a 53-50 win over OIA champ Waipahu two weekends ago. Like Lahainaluna, Konawaena will arrive the day before the title tilt.
“I’ve been getting sick. The whole team’s been getting sick. We’re fighting it,” Uemoto said. “We’re definitely going to have a walk-through on Friday when we land. I’m hoping to get that whole big-city, big-stadium environment jitters out for them.”
The D-II final kicks off at 2 p.m. in Aloha Stadium. The D-I final starts at 5 p.m., followed by the Open Division matchup at 8 p.m.