HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It isn't hard for high school football players to get excited about playing for a state championship. It is, however, a challenge to get them focused.
Coming off a thrilling comeback over Pearl City, 23-22, this past Saturday night, Waipahu head coach Bryson Carvalho wants his team to enjoy the victory, but not get carried away and think that all the hard work is done.
"It's a confidence booster," Carvalho said of his team's OIA DII Championship title. "I think the one thing that I gotta drive home this week is that it's not over yet … we came up a point short last year and then won this year so that's a sense of accomplishment, but I don't want them (the players) to be satisfied with just that. We still have an opportunity to win a state championship and I want to make sure that they understand that.
"This game was very messy, but our kids showed a lot of heart. But I'm also proud how they overcame adversity," Carvalho added. "Having that experience is big going into a state tournament because here on out, there are great teams that are going to play you very closely."
In the Marauders' way is still competition from the Big Island in the form of Konawaena. And Carvalho knows that his team must be at its best to defeat Konawaena and move onto the state DII title game.
"They're a good team," he said. "They're very well-coached; they have a very good passing game … I was able to send some guys to watch some of their games so we got some film of them, but we've been studying it all week. I think the one thing that's made us so successful this year is how we've prepared. This is the most prepared team that I've ever coached."
As for the Konawaena Wildcats, they are not short on confidence, either.
"There's always a buzz at this time of year," said Konawaena head coach Brad Uemoto. "But also, I think we've been playing football for so long that it's becoming a grind and these kids gotta dig a little bit deeper, but for sure the energy's been good just because of the fact we're in the same tournament and most other school's aren't practicing anymore … I think our kids are excited."
Uemoto understands that Waipahu will be carrying momentum from their victory over Pearl City for the OIA DII title into this upcoming Friday's game, but that's not the only reason why Uemoto is wary of the Marauders.
"They're a very explosive offense, definitely an underrated defense," he said. " I think they're a pretty complete team and it's going to be a really big challenge for us. Defensively, we've done well all year. I don't think we've seen an offense like Waipahu in terms of talent and the ability to run and pass the ball. But we just got to prepare and we just got to compete."
The Wildcats will defend their home turf against the Marauders this Friday night in Konawaena. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.