Don’t tell St. Francis School football head coach Kip Akana that Saturday’s game against Damien Memorial School is “meaningless.”
While Damien has essentially clinched the ILH Division II title this season with a 5-0 record in conference play (7-1 overall), there is something meaningful between Damien and St. Francis happening at Aloha Stadium this Saturday.
It’s a rivalry, and neither team wants to lose.
“Damien has captured the first round title, championship, whatever you want to call it. Some guys have asked me, ‘What’s the meaning of this game?’ And to put it quite simply, every game is important to us,” Akana said. “We owe it to our seniors, to our program, to our school as a whole to give it our best. It’s definitely not a meaningless game. We want to pick up some momentum heading into the playoffs.”
With a 5-3 record of their own (3-2 in ILH play), St. Francis isn’t looking to roll over and let their rivals walk all over them.
Damien head coach Eddie Klaneski feels the same way about St. Francis.
“It’s a momentum game. It’s senior night for our kids, Homecoming,” Klaneski said. “It’s St. Francis: It's a rivalry game for us. We’re not looking past at this game.”
Klaneski said that his team is more than ready to take out St. Francis for the second time this season after beating them 27-20 in a back-and-forth contest last month. And with an extra week to prepare for Saturday's game due to Pac-5’s forfeit last weekend, there are no excuses for Damien moving forward.
“We were able to get that extra week off last week; really gave us time to heal up after going five weeks straight. That was huge for us,” Klaneski said. “We were sad that we weren't able to play, but it was good from a coach’s standpoint; gave us a little extra time to prepare for St. Francis. We know the challenges, they're gonna be ready to go out there and play hard.”
One concern one might have with a team having that much time off is that the players might take their foot of the accelerator during practice, knowing that there isn’t a game for another week.
But that wasn’t the case for Klaneski and his team.
“As a coaching staff, we didn't really ease up on them, as far as mentality wise,” he said. “This game is huge. Every single game for us is very important. We don't look past any opponent. The kids stay very focused.”
Insisting on the importance of playing mistake-free football, Klaneski makes it clear that he doesn’t want to lose against a rival, even if the game doesn’t affect their top seed come playoff time.
But playing mistake-free football for St. Francis won’t be good enough to knock off Damien, said Akana.
“They are the defending ILH champs for the last couple years,” he said. “They play great defense, have a diverse offensive, and we have great respect for them. “Throughout the season, I’ve learned a lot about our team - not from that one game in particular. We've learned a lot about our strengths and our weaknesses and I feel every week we're moving ourselves in the right direction. We have to control the line of scrimmage, both sides of the ball. Starts and ends there. If we can control the line of scrimmage, I think we can expect an exciting game.”
St. Francis will look for revenge against Damien this Saturday at Aloha Stadium. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m.
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