There they are again. The Kapaa Warriors. Two games, two wins, six points given up.
Building and building and building, and — if head coach Philip Rapozo has his way — the two-time defending Kauai Interscholastic Federation football champions will continue to build.
The Warriors had a two-point halftime lead over Radford in the Division II state championship game last November and wound up losing 30-16.
“We’re still under the radar,” Rapozo said in a recent phone interview. “We can be a D-II powerhouse, like a Lahainaluna or an ‘Iolani. What ‘Iolani did in D-II (multiple championships), it’s hard to beat that.”
So far this season, the Warriors are holding true to their philosophy of defense first. They beat Maui 16-6 at Vidinha Stadium and then went to the Valley Isle and shut out Lahainaluna 21-0.
“We beat the Lunas on their own field and that gave us some confidence,” Rapozo said. “We didn’t play well against Maui. We were in the red zone seven times and only scored twice. With Lahaina, you’ve got to the run clock and can’t give them more chances. When we play them, it’s like looking in a mirror. They’re going to be a lot better this year and we’ll be a lot better. I expect to play them again. Not to take anything away from the KIF, but we would love to get back to that state championship game. First, we’ve got take care of the KIF.”
The pride Lahainaluna is feeling with its on-campus stadium since 2015 is evident, according to Rapozo.
“It’s a little intimidating,” he said “They come out of the locker room so organized. You can tell they’re disciplined when they’re warming up. I was like, ‘Man, these guys look like they’ve got everything together. I hope we’ll be all right tonight.’ They just bring it. We were up 21-0 and they were still bringing it. So, that win was really big for us. I felt really good after that game because we knew we didn’t play a good game against Maui. They (our players) stepped up. We are conservative on offense, but eventually we’re looking to be balanced. If you let us run on you, we’ll run all night. We’re not looking for a 48-0 blowout. We’re looking to win the game. We’ll throw in some passing. If you stop the run, we’ll throw.”
The goal, obviously, for Kapaa is to get to Aloha Stadium for the Division II state championship game.
“We’re hungry and we want it really badly, but we know it’s harder to get back up after the first time, so we’re preaching to our boys that there is no free ticket to Aloha Stadium. We will have to play harder than we did last year. It would be worse to go again and lose again. There’s a lot of pressure, and we’ve had a lot of experience. We made it to the semis the year before and had ‘Iolani on the ropes before they beat us with seconds left. This year, it’s state championship or bust. If we go 9-1 again and lose the last game, it’s a bust.”
Offensive lineman Mo Unutoa, running back Leighton Moniz, quarterback Kurt Napoleon, defensive tackle Kapena Texeira and linebacker Mana Kupihea are among the leaders of this year’s Warriors.
“Offensively, we ll be a lot better,” Rapozo said. “We have more experience and we got better from Week 1 to Week 2. I don’t think we need to score a lot of points. We just gotta be consistent and capitalize when the defense gives us the ball in good field position.”
Part of building the program for Rapozo is reaching out to the two youth football leagues on Kauai — Pop Warner and Kauai Youth Football.
“Mililani does it, Kahuku does it, everybody is doing it on Oahu, getting involved with the youth leagues,” he said. “That’s big for us. The players come into our program and hit the ground running. The coaches come up and learn our system. We share ideas with the two leagues, but are a little more hands on with the KIF.
“That’s where our program is now and we feel like we’re going to be competitive for years to come. The JV is using the same system as us and it’s really working. I cannot say we’ll win the championship on this island every year, but we plan to be around for at least the last game of the season.”
Kapaa (2-0) opens its KIF season at home against Kauai (0-2) on Friday at 7:30 p.m.