Going into their matchup with Washington state powerhouse Mt. Spokane, the Damien Monarchs are having an experience they will never forget.
It began with Clem Hong, a Damien and Whitworth College graduate. Hong coaches at Mt. Spokane and went to school at Whitworth. His son plays for Mt. Spokane.
“We’re playing in the Pine Bowl at Whitworth. This is their first time playing at Whitworth, as well,” Damien coach Eddie Klaneski said.
Damien is 2-0 so far, a solid start despite the graduation of key seniors. Coach Klaneski chatted with Hawaii Prep World on Tuesday.
HPW: Mt. Spokane hasn’t played a game yet this season, but the program is one of the best in Washington 3A. Have you had a chance to scout them at all?
Klaneski: They run a spread with some fly motion. We’re used to the offensive gameplay they do. We have some film on them. The bad thing is we’ve only had one practice since last week, mostly did special teams. We’ll have only two practices by the time we play them, so that’s the only downfall.
HPW: Your offense runs some variation. How does the matchup against their defense look?
Klaneski: They run 3-4, but they mix it up with a cover-2 and cover-3. Our advantage is we’ve played two games and they haven’t played yet.
HPW: I need to ask this because it wasn’t long ago that Damien was struggling in football. Now, you have a championship program, and yet, every dollar matters for a smaller school. These first two years of the OIA-ILH alliance appears to leave the ILH programs with maybe just enough revenue to cover bus rentals, and that’s about it. It’s also interesting that while your team got to play at Farrington’s Skippa Diaz Stadium in the past, there are no games there for Damien this fall.
Klaneski: We asked that question too. We didn’t get a straight answer. We’re just going to play all these games away, and next year, hopefully, fight to get Farrington again. It’s something we can’t control.
HPW: The one reprieve is that OIA-ILH games at Aloha Stadium allows the ILH to recover some costs.
Klaneski: We’re hoping to make those games that we have at the stadium big money to help cover the expenses. The only plus is we get more games. But it’s a struggle aside from that. If we reach the state tournament, whoever travels, for D-I or D-II, we have to travel. HHSAA will compensate for that, but having to travel, prepare to travel, it’s a lot easier to stay home. We’ll see how it goes after the first year. It’s going well so far, but there’s more things to be encountered during this first season. We used to get a nice check from gate. We still have the same number of berths (for state). We have more regular season games.
HPW: What’s it been like, losing some superb talent and leadership to graduation the past two years?
Klaneski: We’re young, but we’ve got some decent talent, trying to learn, to teach the kids. The foundation was set by Marcus (Faufata-Pedrina), Shiloh (Kaeo) and all those guys from our senior class. These guys know the deal.
HPW: Is there anything about this new group of Monarch leaders that surprises you?
Klaneski: They do things that we don’t expect them to do. They’re young kids, but they make plays. There’s hardly any returns leadership, but they make plays. They have a little more, what these guys call juice than what our kids had last year, and that’s surprising.
HPW: Who are some of the players who have stepped up.
Klaneski: (WR/DB) Lindon Sevilleja has done good things as a senior, becoming a leader on the offensive side. (OL/DL) Jon Dalmacio, he’s kind of been quietly doing stuff and once in awhile he’ll express himself at practice, voice his opinion when things aren’t going well. Quietly, those two seniors keep us going.
HPW: What’s the itinerary like?
Klaneski: We got early practice (on Wednesday) morning. It’s about the whole experience, taking the kids up here not only for the game, but an educational experience. We got in this morning, we checked in and went to Eastern Washington, got a tour of the facilities and campus. We met with Mt. Spokane and had dinner.
HPW: No dead time.
Klaneski: We’re going to spend this much money traveling, we might as well have it jam-packed with activities. We’ll practice 8 to 10:30 in the morning, shower, got to a theme park, then study hall, meetings and get them to meetings. Early practice Thursday, then visit Gonzaga, the kind of schools our kids might like going to academically. We play Friday, then Saturday we’ll have more things to do. We’ll watch Whitworth play. One of our alumni is supposed to play, Jarin Manuel, but he kind of sprained his ankle. We hope he can play. We fly back home Sunday.