With hopes of toppling a nationally ranked team, the Hart High football team will be concentrating on business tonight against St. Louis High of Honolulu.
The Indians, who arrived in Oahu on Monday and won’t return until Sunday, are sure to come home with a photo album full of memories. But without a victory in tonight’s Akina Classic tripleheader at Aloha Stadium, those recollections will lose their luster.
Kickoff between Southern Section Division II runner-up Hart and nine-time defending state champion St. Louis, ranked 25th in the nation this week by USA Today, is 11 p.m. (PDT).
St. Louis, 1-0 this season, finished 13-0 in 1994. Hart (0-0) finished 13-1, losing, 36-15, to Antelope Valley in the section title game.
The Hart coaching staff is approaching the challenge as if it were a college bowl game, trying to mix business with pleasure, with the scales tipping heavily toward business.
"[The players] know the goal is to win a football game,” Hart Coach Mike Herrington said. “There’s not going to be a lot of play time or having-fun time.”
The players were given 2 1/2 hours on the beach Tuesday. On Wednesday, they visited the USS Arizona National Memorial at Pearl Harbor. But most of their time has been devoted to practicing and studying game film.
Several players have planned a snorkeling adventure in Hanauma Bay State Underwater Park on Friday. On Saturday, the eve of their return, several Hart players will be watching ex-teammate John McLaughlin start his first game for Notre Dame at outside linebacker. The Irish play Northwestern in a game televised at 8 a.m., Oahu time.
The Indians raised approximately $40,000 in six months through donations and fund-raisers to pay for the trip. Eight other mainland teams have done the same in previous years, and seven came home losers.
Since Coach Cal Lee arrived in 1982, St. Louis has lost only one nonleague game. That was in 1990, a 40-0 rout at the hands of Canyon, Hart’s Foothill League rival.
But the Crusaders have injury problems. Quarterback Darnell Arceneaux, who some call the best ever to play on Oahu, could be sidelined for the second game in a row because of an ankle injury.
Arceneaux last season completed 109 of 185 passes for 2,311 yards and 27 touchdowns in 10 games, an Interscholastic League of Honolulu record. Playoff statistics are not counted.
“I doubt if he’s going to play,” Lee said. “It’s basically a healing [of a stress fracture]. If it was the last game of the season, he’d play. But this is nonleague.”
St. Louis hardly missed Arceneaux in a 32-7 victory over Waeanae. last Friday. Second-string quarterback Palani Nunes completed 23 of 29 for 293 yards and two touchdowns.
The Crusader players about whom Hart must be concerned are defensive lineman Chris Fonoti, who was out last week with a viral infection but will play tonight, and receiver Eddie Kealoha. Kealoha, who will also play at running back and caught four touchdown passes last year against Oakland Skyline, is the main man in a wide-open offense.
St. Louis operates a run-and-shoot scheme nearly identical to that of Hart.
“They go out of a shotgun [formation] about 40% of the time and they wing it,” Hart offensive coordinator Dean Herrington said. “They run a lot of the same plays as us.”
Defensively, Dean Herrington said, St. Louis is quick and physical. But with 12 returning starters, Herrington said the Indians can play with any team.
“Los Alamitos is No. 1 in the nation, and I think we can definitely play with them,” he said.
The Crusaders must find a way to keep senior running back Ted Iacenda out of the end zone. He enters the season with 60 touchdowns in two years, including 41 in 1994. Iacenda rushed for 1,538 yards and caught 46 passes for 838 yards last season.
“On film, [Iacenda] looks good,” Lee said. “On the field, he might not look so good.”
But St. Louis also must be concerned with Hart quarterback Steve McKeon. McKeon completed 160 of 259 for 2,925 yards and 30 touchdowns last season, and has six reliable receivers besides Iacenda, including J.B. Nelson (31 receptions).