Football Tour Notes: Damien, Kahuku, Waialua

Some quick notes as the Tour resumed on Wednesday and Thursday.

And yes, there’s nothing better than driving around the island on gorgeous, sunny, pristine August afternoons. I’m a fan of daytime football, and I’m a fan of daytime driving. The sights are so glorious. Driving back from Kahuku, Windward side, with the sky still lit, is natural beauty at its finest. Driving that route late at night, be careful.

• Damien. The Monarchs are still fairly big up front, though not as big as last year, the coaches and players say. They’re not deep; enrollment and roster size has decreased at Damien as it has at virtually every private school. But the Monarchs are still 50-plus deep (no JV) and coach Punahou Aina is continually tinkering in his football imagination.

The Monarchs have been run-oriented for so long, but they’re adding an old wrinkle this fall: the option. While the trend statewide has been toward the run-and-shoot shotgun set, Damien is running counter, so to speak, with an option package that few teams run any more. The option used to be commonplace, particularly while the University of Hawaii ran the spread under then-offensive coordinator Paul Johnson (now at Georgia Tech).

Now, the option is a rare breed. Only Kapolei, which has former OC Michael Carter (who played in Johnson’s prolific offense) back in the fold, is among other truly committed option teams.

So, if Damien can effectively operate an offense that few opponents can duplicate, let alone stop, is this a shrewd move by Aina? Time will tell.

• Kahuku. The photo shoot there went very smoothly, as well. For me, someone who’s been shooting photos since 1990, there’s meaning in photo day. Very often, teams that are very disciplined on the field are equally organized off it. Kahuku was very prepared, not a lot of rah-rah or players distracting each other. They were relaxed, loose and moved as one unit, then went right to practice.

If you’d been there with me, not knowing who the starters and standout players are, you wouldn’t know who was who. There’s a humility built into this team that is impressive, and that’s saying something for a team with a LOT of potential all-state players.

On the field, we’ll see soon enough how potent they’ll be offensively with quarterback Evan Moe, superb depth at running back (Galeai “Mua” Malufau is back from his knee injury) and deep threats in Punga Vea and tight end Shairone Thompson.

Quiet confidence at Kahuku. It can be scary for the rest of the Oahu Interscholastic Association Red Conference.

• Waialua. Before I even stepped onto the Bulldog’s field — Toshi Nakasone Field, to be exact — I enjoyed another visit to historic Waialua town. It felt so comfortable, even more so in near-90 degree heat, with so little traffic. I finally realized that Waialua is as close to resembling a neighbor-island town as can be. The “busy” part of town, the strip where the library, old Bank of Hawaii and the mill converge, still doesn’t have — or need — a traffic light. People give the right of way with a smile. The library is well appreciated and busy. Even within the stately, old Bank of Hawaii building, a shirt screening company takes up residence.

Recycling at its best. Added sparkly happy moments: accidentally finding Waialua Soda Works (closed, but wow), trying their new Kona Red soda (goes well with Doritos) and having a great penang curry plate from nearby Nui’s, a Thai lunch wagon.

As for the Bulldogs, they’ll miss offensive linemen Graham Rowley and Micah Hatchie. Rowley is at BYU and Hatchie is at Washington. Waialua coach Lincoln Barit is proud of both and can’t help getting excited when he talks about them. He’s also proud of former quarterback Caleb Forte, now the starter at San Bernadino Junior College.

Waialua ran a hybrid spread offense back in Forte’s time. This year, they’re using at least one of their two-way linemen as a blocking back, but could wind up throwing the ball more. It’s a mystery waiting to be solved. I’d like to see the plot unfold chapter by chapter, but in my line of work, the bosses send me where the need is greater, so I haven’t seen a small-town program play in quite some time.

I suppose I miss watching those old Big Island Interscholastic Federation games in distant hamlets like Hawi, Waiaka and Pahala. The numbers weren’t many, but the spirit was always great. I saw much of that same spirit the past couple of days.

Tomorrow, the menu is loaded.

Paul Honda, Star-Advertiser


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