There are as many question marks about the 2019 Damien Monarchs as ever, perhaps.
The new Monarchs answered the bell for the first scrimmage of the season against Campbell and Kaimuki on Thursday night in impressive fashion. A linebacker took the wheel at quarterback and guided Damien to touchdown drives against the Sabers and Bulldogs. Duke Ho‘ohuli, who starts at inside ‘backer, filled in at QB with starter Jake Holtz on a mainland trip. Ho‘ohuli’s pocket presence was poised and precise.
“We threw the ball pretty well,” Damien coach Eddie Klaneski said. “Same like last year. He’s a young boy, a sophomore who’s going to be a junior this year. We’ve got him and Logan (Lacio), our other young boy who came up from intermediate. They made some nice plays.”
The key to stability offensively was Damien’s ability to protect. Damien, which is in Division I, did it against Open Division Campbell and D-II Kaimuki.
“The real big thing I liked about today is our offensive line held up. We’re really thin there, but that’s really huge for us if we can stay healthy. They did a really good job,” Klaneski said. “The offensive line has been the most consistent, solid group, really training hard and sticking together. They’re old-school, tough kids.”
During one goal-line battle against Kaimuki’s offense, Damien sent in several of its offensive linemen. The Monarchs came up with a tackle for loss. Kaimuki scored on the next play, a fourth-down keeper by new quarterback Jayden Maiava.
“We brought them in on defense for our elephant package and they moved the line. I’m just real proud of those guys and everybody for competing today,” Klaneski said.
All three teams had ups and downs, as expected in the first competition of the season.
“Defensively, we had some little holes here. I think we showed enough that we’re going to be able to compete. Kaimuki has some really good players. So does Campbell. We’re just excited to have this opportunity to play these teams,” Klaneski said. “We want to be healthy at the end of the day. We got a couple of bruises, but I think we’ll be OK.”
The Monarchs have a tri-scrimmage with Kapolei and Farrington at Skippa Diaz Stadium on Saturday, 5:30 p.m.
They will travel to play a nonconference game against defending D-II state champion Lahainaluna on Aug. 3. After a bye week, Damien plays Radford on Aug. 15 in a regular-season opener in the OIA-ILH football alliance.