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Prep Football Preview Special
Prep Football Preview
Game of the Week
Kalani Takase | ScoringLiveOctober 22, 2020, 6:09pm
Fri, Oct 22, 2010 @ Kaiser [ 7:00 pm ]
Just one game into the 2010 prep football season, then-Kaimuki coach Clint Onigama felt that he might just have a makings of a pretty special team.
He was right.
The Bulldogs reached the Division II state final some three months later and finished with a 12-2 overall record. Along the way they captured an OIA championship, just the second in program history.
The thing is Kaimuki lost its season opener that year — a non-league game at Mililani — by a score of 34 to 6.
But the final score fails to paint the whole picture.
"That loss, despite the fact of the (one-sided) score, I felt like we were competing," said Onigama, who coached the Bulldogs for six seasons, from 2009 to 2014.
"I felt like I saw what I needed to from my team and I remember leaving the game thinking that ‘this team might be tough,' " he added.
Onigama wasn't the only one impressed with his bunch. So was his counterpart on the opposing sideline, Mililani's Rod York, who was making his head coaching debut after two seasons as the team's defensive coordinator under Darnell Arceneaux.
"That Kaimuki team had heart. They were fighters, they'd keep coming back and you could tell they were mentally strong," York recalled.
The Bulldogs had just spent the previous two seasons in Division I. In fact, their 2009 season ended with a playoff loss at Mililani, in a 47-35 shootout.
"Our loss during 2009, the second half our boys really got it together and we were able to put some points on the board," Onigama noted.
"At the time we didn't know we would play Mililani in the preseason the following year, but coming off that playoff loss to them and going into that following year, we kept trying to preach to our boys about their grades. Because our roster is so small, in the preseason we're always hit by academic probation because we might have some guys out (academically ineligible) from the fourth quarter of the previous year — but no excuses, Mililani whooped us."
Onigama recalled a pleasant postgame exchange with York, a fellow Iolani alum.
"He praised us. He said some really nice, kind words, like, ‘If you guys had numbers (depth),' that kind of thing," said Onigama, a 1997 Iolani graduate and former Raiders quarterback.
York, a former defensive lineman and 1991 Iolani graduate, noted that the 2010 team he inherited was one rich in talent, including dual-threat quarterback Trent McKinney, behind a senior-laden offensive line, with 6-foot-4 receiver Hassan Richardson as a senior matchup problem for most defenses.
"We had a good team, a veteran team and I just remember that Kaimuki team having a lot less players than us and we were talented and we were deep. I mean, we were loaded," said York, whose team went on to the semifinal round of the D1 state tournament that season.
"The reason I'm saying that is because we were a legit Open division team and that Kaimuki team never backed down to our kids. They continued to challenge us even when they were getting blown out and they definitely got our kids respect and my respect after the game because they competed for four quarters; they didn't quit like some teams do. They showed a lot of heart and that's from the culture of the team that is set by the coaching staff and the head coach and I remember Clint had done that earlier," York said.
Both the Trojans and Bulldogs went on to claim league titles that season, in D1 and D2, respectively.
Onigama said that the 28-point loss to Mililani both kept his players hungry and fortified their character.
"I think that helped us push through the season. They were tough kids, they played their hearts out and it's not easy to play against a program like Mililani, especially short-handed, but we emphasized how much confidence we had in them and we always stressed to them about making themselves proud, making their school proud and making their community proud," Onigama said.
Kaimuki went on to win 12 games in a row following it season opener. It saw its share of nail-biters, including five games decided by six-or-fewer points. It posted three wins by a single point, including a 14-13 victory over Pearl City in the semifinals of the OIA D2 tournament on Oct. 22, in a game played at Kaiser Stadium.
In a bit of a scheduling quirk, the Bulldogs and Chargers had just faced off six days prior — a 34-12 win for Kaimuki at Roosevelt's Ticky Vasconcellos Stadium — in the regular-season finale for both teams. However, that game was marred by 19 combined penalties for 213 yards and some ugly moments.
Consequently, Onigama said he had to spend much of practice time the following week reminding his players of self control and discipline — nearly as much as they did actual game-planning for the Chargers.
"I'd say it was almost a 50-50 split," Onigama recalled. "Really, what we told our boys — and I think that they responded well — was to control the things that we can control, play a clean game and we trusted in the fact that the Pearl City coaching staff would relay the same message to their players and it was good. It really was all about football. I think on both ends we didn't want any distractions. It being a playoff game, we both wanted to put our best foot forward."
The Bulldogs got off to a good start with a defensive touchdown near the mid-point of the first quarter. Chester Sua recorded his second interception in just six minutes of play and returned 66 yards for a pick-6.
"When Chester had that opportunity and got that interception and took it back that was big for us. It got some momentum on our side," Onigama said of Sua, who started at both outside linebacker and running back that season before going on to play for Washington State University.
Just before the end of the opening stanza, Kaimuki extended its lead with a 67-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Nahoa Spencer to receiver Mason Kualii-Moe to convert on third-and-39.
"We practice that route concept — two seams in the middle, just try to clean up our angles — but we had a pretty good feel for the fact that we'll have opportunities over the middle, but in that down and situation we did not expect that," Onigama laughed. "We were just hoping to get the ball into Mason's hands because he's such a playmaker, but the pass was good — the air yards were not very much — but Nahoa hit him in stride and Mason was gone."
Kaimuki's 14-0 lead held until the 8:29 mark of the third quarter, when Ray Cooper dove into the end zone from a yard out to get Pearl City on the board.
The Chargers pulled within a point on Isaac Shim's 30-yard TD pass to wide receiver Diacorri Briscoe with 6:42 left.
"I remember Briscoe," Onigama said of the then-sophomore. "We would focus on him a lot. Pearl City had a lot of good players, but Briscoe was such a dynamic playmaker on the outside that I definitely remember him and we dedicated a lot of attention to where he was. He was bound to make a play."
The ensuing extra point, however, was wide left and the Bulldogs clung to a one-point lead.
"I remember on the PAT we got good penetration inside and it forced their kicker to hook it a little wide — when we looked at the film that was big," Onigama said. "We knew that we were about to be in the middle of a tied game and so we made a big emphasis before the PAT to ‘get there, get a good push, get your hands up,' and I remember watching the ball hook. The kicker did his best to not get it blocked."
Still, Pearl City had a chance to take the lead in the waning minutes after the Bulldogs fumbled at their own 18-yard line. However, the defense held the Chargers to one yard on three plays and the potential go-ahead field goal from 33 yards out was wide left.
"It just came down to the defense. Our defense played an amazing game that entire game. It was a nail-biter, but knowing our defensive line and our whole defense is pretty solid, I remember thinking to just put it on their shoulders, let them make a play and they were able to," Onigama said.
Kaimuki regained possession with 3:58 left and ran the ball eight straight times to run out the clock.
The Bulldogs punched their ticket to the state tournament with the win. They enjoyed a week off before rolling over Kalaheo, 48-12, in the OIA title game. When the same teams met in the regular season, Kaimuki eked out a 14-13 win over the Mustangs.
"We're such a small team already so that extra week helped us recover from some injuries and just helped us a ton," said Onigama, who noted that the defensive emphasis was on slowing down Kalaheo running back Jesse Carney.
Carney carried 20 times for 130 yards in the regular-season meeting. He was held to eight rushes for 43 yards in the rematch.
"He's unbelievable," Onigama said of Carney, who averaged 9.8 yards per carry and ran for 1,463 with 16 TDs that year.
"He was so quick out of that option as that dive back. He would hit it real quick and so we really focused on stopping the dive on the option and we changed up some key assignments to hopefully make us more efficient at stopping the option, but as far as the final score, I think it was an example of a team gaining momentum. They were just ready, they were hungry and I just remember seeing how focused our team was before the game."
The 36-point rout of the Mustangs gave the Bulldogs their first league football title in four years.
"It was huge, it validated all of our hard work and I think that's when our boys really started to believe that they were capable of competing, but beyond that it brought a lot of pride to the school, that's the things that I feel is my best memory about it," Onigama said.
Kaimuki was seeded third in the six-team D2 state tournament bracket. It staved off host Kamehameha-Hawaii, 14-9, in the first round, before rallying past second-seeded Lahainaluna, 28-27 in overtime, in a semifinal game at Wailuku's War Memorial Stadium.
However, the Bulldogs' dream season came to a bittersweet end with a 49-14 loss to top-seeded Iolani in the state final. It was the fourth of sixth consecutive D2 state championships won by the Raiders.
"It was an amazing season. It's hard to believe it was 10 years ago, but I remember a hard-working team that was open to discipline, they were ready to be pushed and they wanted to succeed. They were really hungry from the year before and even though we were small in numbers, we had some solid athletes and we knew that we could compete," Onigama said.
But it's not just the wins and losses, or championships won that stick out to Onigama.
He explained, "We had a real family environment at practices. We were real close, we spent a lot of time together, the kids spent a lot of time in my classroom, breaking down film, so I never really had to chase them down, they were always around and now it's so nice to see these boys around every now and then, just to see the grown men that they have become."
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