Today will be no walk on the beach for three Valley-area high school football teams playing in the Shawn Akina Memorial Classic at Aloha Stadium.
As the coaches have constantly hammered into helmets the past few days, Canyon, Crespi and Montclair Prep traveled 2,500 miles for football, not frolic.
If the players’ thoughts are of hulas instead of huddles, the coaches say, they will be crushed like a boogie board in Waimea Bay’s 15-foot surf.
There is sound reasoning for the apprehension.
Canyon faces St. Louis of Honolulu, a private school that is public enemy No. 1 because of its 55-game winning streak. Many Hawaiians secretly hope Canyon upends St. Louis, which recruits all over Oahu with impunity.
“It will probably take a mainland team to defeat St. Louis,” said Skip Akina, organizer of the event.
Crespi faces Kahuku, a rugged rural public school that fell to St. Louis in the Oahu Interscholastic Assn. final last year.
Montclair Prep faces Farrington, a rough-and-tumble public school located in a lower-income area of Honolulu. Farrington defeated Kahuku last year.
A preview of each game:
Canyon vs. St. Louis, 8 p.m. (local time): St. Louis lost most of its skill-position players and nine of 11 defensive starters to graduation, but losing a game is a different matter.
The Crusaders cruised to a season-opening 47-13 victory over San Diego Lincoln on Saturday, building a 40-6 halftime lead.
“St. Louis is probably as tough a high school football team as you will find anywhere,” said Doug Semones, the Kahuku coach. “The program is a machine, set and rolling.”
Under Coach Cal Lee, St. Louis has won four consecutive state titles and has not lost since the ninth week of the 1985 season. The Crusaders are ranked in the nation’s top 25 by Street & Smith magazine and USA Today.
The campus is regally set in the hills next to Chaminade University. Lee ferrets out the toughest, smartest players on Oahu and offers them scholarships and invincibility.
Quarterback John Hao and lineman Roy Maafala (6-2, 240) are returning all-state players.
On the chopping block today is Canyon. Harry Welch, the Canyon coach, is noted for building up his opponents in the media. This time, the facts speak for themselves.
“We’ve come to paradise to go through hell,” Welch said. “This is an opportunity for our kids to do something extraordinary. These circumstances may never be duplicated in the history of our school.”
Canyon, of course, has a proud tradition of its own. The Cowboys tied the Southern Section record with 46 consecutive victories from 1983-86.
Never have they started a game at 11 p.m. Pacific time, however. Never have they played on an artificial surface. Never have they played before a crowd of 15,000.
It’s a game of firsts for the Cowboys, and they hope to hand St. Louis its first defeat in a long time.
Crespi vs. Kahuku, 5:30 p.m.: This is as much a matchup of coaches as of teams.
Crespi’s Tim Lins and Kahuku’s Doug Semones were roommates at Cal Lutheran in 1981-82. They were--and remain--close friends, but they were not always cordial, according to their coach at CLU, Bob Shoup.
“Lins played tight end and Semones played safety, so consequently they lined up across from one another,” Shoup said. “Let’s just say there was heated competition.”
The artificial turf at sweltering Aloha Stadium will be plenty hot when Kahuku’s physical, emotional bunch meets Crespi’s cool, analytical technicians.
Some things never change.
Expect Kahuku, behind Oahu’s returning offensive player of the year Mark Atuaia, to smash the ball down the field. Atuaia rushed for 1,213 yards last season and had 222 in a 21-19 season-opening victory over Damien on Saturday.
Expect Crespi, behind junior quarterback Cody Smith and wide receiver Ryan Kieling, to carve up the Kahuku secondary with passes and well-timed draw plays out of its single-back set.
Kahuku’s all-state wide receiver, Itula Mili, is questionable with a leg injury.
Montclair Prep vs. Farrington, 3 p.m: Derek Sparks rushed for 1,944 yards and scored 35 touchdowns last season, but he never ran against a defense as ferocious as Farrington’s.
“I wouldn’t compare the two programs, but on film they look a lot like Carson,” Montclair Prep assistant coach John Hazelton said. Hazelton was head coach at Banning in 1988 and faced Carson, perennially one of the top teams in Southern California.
In a 21-14 season-opening win over Kamehameha on Saturday, Farrington exhibited little flair, content to run a few basic plays out of an I formation.
Quarterback Carl Liana (6-1, 200) and junior running back Randall Okimoto are the primary ballcarriers behind an offensive line led by Pat Kesi (6-4, 265) and John Tatupu (6-2, 250).
“They are a big bunch, but we’re not singing the blues,” Hazelton said. “This is a nice challenge.”