POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Nov 25, 2010
Don't let the youthful appearance fool you.
Clint Onigama has been everything the Kaimuki Bulldogs could have imagined when they hired the former 'Iolani football player and coach last year.
They also could not have imagined surging from the struggles of 2009 to the Division II final of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA State Football Championships.
Better yet, Kaimuki's emergence means the hardy Bulldogs -- 34 strong -- will take on defending state champion 'Iolani.
Onigama has no qualms. Concerns, yes, but he chuckles at the prospect of facing his former coach, Wendell Look. Onigama's skill as a teacher extends beyond the classroom at neighboring school Kaimuki. His players come to Building C for lunch daily, study video and enjoy the comfort of success among football family.
"A lot of the pressure is off. We know this is our last game now," Onigama said. "We met just about every goal we set as a team. I'm proud of our kids and our coaches. The kids are excited. This group, man, we've had so many close games and they continue fighting and believing. I like where we are mentally right now, excited for the game, but keeping perspective."
Kaimuki (12-1) will need all the composure it can muster against 'Iolani (8-3), which has won three state titles in a row and four of the last five. The previous time the two schools met, it went down to the final moments in a comeback 11-8 win by the Raiders.
» On paper: The Raiders have survived through a rigorous ILH grind, topping all D-II foes and even one D-I opponent (Kamehameha).
No D-II team has scored more than eight points against 'Iolani, quite a statement by a Raiders team that lost defensive tackles Sealii Epenesa and Kaena Moose to graduation.
Coach Wendell Look on Kaimuki running back Chester Sua: "We might have to put 12 on the field to stop him."
» The skinny: 'Iolani, using a five-man front against Kauai's wishbone, goal-line offense formation, was highly disciplined and effective. Kaimuki, though, usually lines up without a tight end, creating open space for Sua and his lead blocker.
"Any time you face a team the quality and caliber of Chester Sua, you have to corral him and try and keep his production to a minimum," Look said. "If not, they're just going to ride him and that's going to open up their passing game if he is successful running the ball."
Kaimuki's defense is another key factor.
"They look to make big plays on defense. They look for the turnovers. Our kids are going to have to be very smart when they handle the ball," Look noted.
'Iolani may not have senior receiver and holder Kevin Barayuga available (knee).
» X factor: The Raiders have made an art and science of special teams.
"We're pleased with how Jordan Lee has come around," Look said of the pooch-kicking, coffin-corner punting sophomore. "He's been a weapon for us and a scorer for us."
Not surprisingly, Kaimuki has a battle-tested place-kicker in Keoki Kaiahua.
"He can pooch kick, too," Look added.
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