Friday, September 16, 2022 | By Nick Abramo
During the 1990s and early 2000s, the Waimea football team was a thing of beauty on Kauai.
Led by a string of coaches like Tommy Rita, Patrick Pereira and Jon Kobayashi, discipline and fundamentals were the two traits at the forefront of those teams.
And while those two words are quite common when coaches talk, Big Blue on the Garden Isle lived and breathed them. Usually smaller in stature than their opponents — especially when it came time to play against Oahu teams — Waimea made up for it in other ways coaches love. Those Menehunes checked off all the boxes when it came to alignment, assignment, execution and, most of all, effort.
Things have come full circle, so to speak, because the team from the westside of Kauai appears to be back in that mode in a big way.
With proud alumnus Kyle (pronounced KI-lee) Linoz at the helm, Waimea is off to a 4-0 start and made a statement by knocking off last year’s Division II state champion and league rival Kapa’a 7-3 last Saturday.
That game was the first of three times the two teams will face each other this year, so expect plenty of KIF fireworks before the league championship is settled, and of course, you can’t dismiss the potential for the league’s other team, Kauai High, to do some damage as well.
Fortunately for the KIF, two teams will make it into the state tournament, a rarity since the big show began in 1999. Kapaa (1-3) has already qualified because the Warriors are the island’s only D-I squad. Still, the defending champions are trying to avoid what would be a humbling experience of being in a higher classification and not winning the overall league championship.
Waimea and Kauai — whichever team finishes higher — will qualify for states at the D-II level.
After first hearing about their increased chances to make it to states this year, Linoz and the Menehunes were super excited.
“It really lit an extra fire that we have a really big shot of getting to states,” Linoz told ESPNHonolulu.com by phone Wednesday afternoon. “That was our goal as soon as we found out that we wouldn’t have to go through Kapa’a. But at the same time, getting that KIF title is our No. 1 goal. That would be unbelievable to represent the KIF at states, especially after seeing what Kapa’a did last year (wins of 51-0 over Hawaii Prep in the semifinals and 61-7 over Kamehameha-Maui in the D-II state championship game). We can compete with (Kapa’a) and we want to have a chance to try to do what they did.”
A 1991 Waimea graduate, Linoz touched on the Menehunes’ discipline and fundamentals in 2022.
“That’s just how we want to do things,” he said. “I learned from my coaches how important those things are and how you need to respect your opponent. We had good coaches before I took over and I want to keep it moving forward.”
A year ago, Waimea’s performances against Kapa’a got better as the season went on — losses of 42-0, 15-0 and 20-6.
“Kapa’a took it to us last year, but we closed the gap and this year we’re moving forward knowing that we can play with the best there is in D-II,” Linoz said. “This year, we’re going to have our hands full with both teams. We have very good football on the island. Anybody could have have won that game (last week’s 7-3 victory over the Warriors).”
Aside from wins over Kapa’a and Kauai (44-0) this fall, the Menehunes have victories over Kaimuki (48-6) of the OIA and King Kekaulike (21-10) of the MIL.
Linoz’s son, Kyka, shares duties with Kameron Apilado at quarterback.
“We have two running the show” the coach said. “Kam is our speed guy with a lot of skill who runs the spread offense. Kyka runs the power offense when we have a tight end.”
Among other impact players for Waimea are running back Aukai Emayo, who Linoz said is “small but tough as nails,” receiver Kenny Okeigar, outside linebacker Rhaz Tacub-Taniguchi, defensive end Robbie Correa, and defensive tackle Kaizen Castillo.
About the coach’s time as the Waimea quarterback during his high school days, he said, “I needed to run to not get creamed. We were tiny and didn’t want to get hit by the big guys.”
That comment was one way to downplay the fact that the Menehunes won the KIF title in his senior season in the fall of 1990. Waimea, however, did not repeat the next year, but they did go on a string of 12 straight league championships after that.
Those Garden Isle west-siders also had a lot of success in the early years of the state tournament, going 3-4 in the top division from 1999 through 2002, and probably their most famous alumnus is Jordon Dizon from the Class of 2004. In college, he was a consensus All-American linebacker at Colorado before playing for the Detroit Lions for three seasons.
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