Damien coach Eddie Klaneski hopes history will repeat itself when the Monarchs and St. Francis meet again for the ILH Division II championship at Aloha Stadium.
Next Saturday’s matchup will mark exactly one year since Damien beat St. Francis 20-12 in Halawa to win the 2016 ILH Division II title. Like last year, both teams split the season series.
The main difference this time around is that the Saints will have to beat the top-seeded Damien twice to claim the conference crown because the Monarchs earned the top seed in the regular season.
Klaneski hopes it doesn’t come down to a winner-take-all matchup, stressing the importance of the first contest.
“It’s gonna be huge for us. We don’t want to have to play those guys twice,” Klaneski said of the Saints. “We’re gonna put everything into the game this week and we hope we come out on top.
“If we play mistake-free, I think we’ll be OK because we have the pieces in place, we just haven’t been doing well on both sides of the ball so we gotta get a little bit better.”
Damien (8-2) sealed its spot in the championship game after a 30-20 victory over Pac-Five on Friday night at Aloha Stadium, but it was a game that disappointed Klaneski in lack of execution.
“We know St. Francis won and they’re up and coming right now. They’re on the rise and doing a lot of good things so if we don’t get it together, we very well might not be playing any longer,” Klaneski said.
Momentum would seem to favor St. Francis (7-3) heading into the upcoming week. The Saints are fresh off a 43-19 road rout of ‘Iolani. The game before that? A 19-0 shutout victory over Damien last Saturday.
“Beating them the first time will mean everything to us. We practice so hard, to have a loss like that last week motivates us even harder to keep working, refine our skills and keep playing,” Damien running back Keoua Kauhi added. “There’s a lot of seniors on this team and we don’t want to have them end their season like that.”
When Klaneski and his troops head back to the same venue where they won an ILH title last year, they’ll do so knowing that they’ve done it before.
But they’ll also know that it will take a lot more to do it again.
“The way we’re playing, we can lose at any time and it’s very frustrating as a coach,” he said. “Hopefully we can take care of our business and give St. Francis a game next week.”