Thursday | December 14, 2017
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HHSAA football: Hilo, Damien have cure for nerves

Butterflies, mutterflies.

Hilo High football coach Kaeo Drummondo and his counterpart at Damien, Eddie Klaneski, each have the same simple recipe for throwing a curve at their teams’ nerves as the biggest game of their lives looms: preparation.

Try as they might, the HHSAA Division I final isn’t just another game for two schools looking for their first state title, but for the Vikings (9-1) and Monarchs (10-3), the week leading up to the game can be just another week.

On Tuesday at an HHSAA media day at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, site of Saturday’s 5 p.m. championship, Drummondo was asked to gauge his players’ collective mood.

“They’re 14-17, you can’t tell on a daily basis,” he said. “They are doing the same things they normally do. So for us, it’s a matter of prepare the best we can, from now until we get here Friday, so that the moment come Saturday is not too big.”

Being able to travel to Honolulu a day before the game was on Drummondo’s wish list shortly after the Vikings disposed of Maui 26-7 in the semifinals Nov. 4 at Wong Stadium. The Friday arrival affords Hilo the chance to conduct a walk-through at Aloha Stadium.

Whereas Damien will be playing its sixth game in Halawa this season, only a portion of the Vikings’ players took the field the last time Hilo played at Aloha Stadium in 2015.

Beyond the pomp and circumstance, Drummondo wants to make sure this game is decided between the lines.

“You have to get them ready to play a football game,” he said. “That’s why it’s great we can get them down here (Friday) and get the atmosphere of the stadium out of the way, so it doesn’t come into our equation Saturday.”

Damien punched its ticket to the final with a 13-10 victory at Kauai on Nov. 4. The Monarchs engineered their third halftime comeback of the season, with Marcus Faufata-Pedrina’s touchdown pass to Logan Lauti providing the go-ahead score midway through the third quarter.

Klaneski, a Damien alum, called the Monarchs’ practices this week upbeat and uptempo, with an emphasis on having fun, honoring the seniors and enjoying the journey.

As for his team’s mental focus?

“Just like any other game, it’s the preparation,” he said. “No matter what you do, if you get your kids prepared for the battle, then there going to be OK. They are going to have butterflies, they are going to be nervous, they are going to be anxious.

“If they understand what their jobs are, what there assignments and alignments are, they are going to be prepared for the game, even if they don’t even know it.”

Led by Faufata-Pedrina – a senior dual-threat quarterback who has completed 57 percent of his passes and thrown for 2,099 yards with 20 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, adding 477 yards rushing and seven TDs on the ground – Damien has focused best when under fire and facing diversity.

Damien overcame five turnovers to win its semifinal in what was its third consecutive game and sixth this season decided by a single possession, including a 13-12 victory against St. Francis for the ILH title on Oct. 27.

“By no means have we played a perfect game yet,” Klaneski said, “but some how we’ve pulled out the games and pulled out the wins we’ve needed to.”

Klaneski, a 1993 Damien graduate, played football at the University of Hawaii and took the helm of the Monarchs in 2011, leading them back to their first title game since Damien lost to Aiea, 9-7, in the inaugural Division II final in 2003. Considering his team’s penchants for making comebacks, he was light-heartedly asked Tuesday if he would prefer to his team trailing at the half against Hilo.

No – but his bunch is hard to faze.

“If everything works out well, we definitely want to be winning at halftime,” he said. “It’s not going to be something that holds us back, if we go into the locker room and we are down.”

“We always have to make adjustments in-game, because (the Vikings) are definitely going to do something different than what they’ve done throughout the season.”


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