To air, for the Damien Monarchs, is to be human.
The program that not so long ago generated speedboy running backs like Kama Bailey and Kealoha Pilares didn’t take long to recognize the potential growth of its passing game. The Monarchs aired the ball out 30 times in a 26-21 win over Pac-Five on Friday, a far cry from the days when Pilares and Bailey were churning out 200-yard games on the ground.
It’s not like coach Eddie Klaneski eschewed the ground attack. Samson Low rushed for a career-best 101 yards on 19 carries. As a team, Damien ran 47 times for a healthy 182 yards. That’s a run-pass ratio of 61 percent running plays. That’s what most coaches will prefer to do against the dangerous passing game of the Wolfpack.
Damien snapped 42 plays in the second half thanks to its balanced attack. That kept Pac-Five’s offense on the sideline for much of the time. The Wolfpack had just 23 offensive plays after the break.
Kapi‘ina King, Damien’s 6-foot-5 senior wide receiver, was a busy guy. He was targeted 12 times by Labanon, including seven times on the QB’s first nine pass attempts. They were, no question, trying to get the ILH’s tallest wide receiver as many opportunities as possible. Here’s what Damien’s target list looked like.
• King: four receptions, 79 yards, TD (12 targets)
• Elijah Brown: 1-7 (two)
• Low: 1-(minus 2) (one)
• Ian Lundberg: 5-55, TD (nine)
• Kana‘i Picanco: 3-51 (four)
• Dutch Claybaugh: 1-9 (one)
Labanon makes it possible. He was 15-for-30 without a pick for 199 yards. The De La Salle-style veer attack, with split backs and relatively tight splits up front, also helps to create a lot of open space for receivers like King. He’s sort of a high school version of Harold Carmichael, the old-time Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver, a 6-8 wide receiver with great balance and hands.
For Damien, it was a good win not so much in the playoff setup because ‘Iolani beat St. Francis to claim first place in ILH Division II outright. But was a first meeting of the season with Pac-Five, and this coming weekend’s playoff battle with the ‘Pack will be their second. If Pac-Five can live with four catches by King out of 12 targets, it should be another toss-up game.
If there’s anything else Klaneski will clamp down on this week at practice, it may be penalties. The Monarchs had 12 yellow flags for 129 yards.
Defensively, Brown and Lundberg had one sack each, and Jarin Manuel had an interception against Pac-Five’s prolific QB, Kainoa Ferreira.