After all, at a recent basketball game, several Spartan followers were overheard talking about taking their vacations in September to coincide with such a game.
But nothing was made official until today. It will be announced by Hawaii High School Athletic Association executive director Keith Amemiya that De La Salle will be playing on Saturday, Sept. 21, at 8 p.m. at Aloha Stadium. The Spartans' opponent will not be two-time defending state champion Kahuku, but will be perennial power St. Louis of Honolulu.
Kahuku will be at Aloha Stadium on that night as well as part of a doubleheader. And who do you think the Red Raiders will be playing? How does Long Beach Poly grab you?
"We are hoping this will showcase Hawaii football to the rest of the country by playing two of the very best programs in the country," Amemiya told Student Sports on Monday. "We're honored De La Salle and Long Beach Poly have decided to come."
Speculation about De La Salle playing St. Louis erupted last winter when it was reported -- and later retracted and corrected -- that HHSAA officials were considering a request from St. Louis to skip its own state playoffs for the possibility of playing De La Salle in a November game.
It was fueled further in the summer at the National Federation of State High School Association's Hall of Fame banquet when inductee Bob Ladouceur, head coach of the De La Salle team since 1979, said he would be open to playing either St. Louis or Kahuku.
According to Amemiya as well as Honolulu Advertister reporter Dennis Anderson, who was preparing a story on Monday that was to be published in today's newspaper, the HHSAA will be covering all travel costs for the two California teams but that all profits will stay in the islands with percentages going to St. Louis, Kahuku as well as to the two associations they are part of -- the Interscholastic League of Honolulu and the Oahu Interscholastic Association.
The two leagues contributed to the doubleheader being pulled off for allowing St. Louis and Kahuku to take league byes in their schedule and for shuffling the schedule so that St. Louis will only have played twice before meeting De La Salle while the Spartans will have played once. Kahuku will have played three times before meeting Poly. It has always been a sticking point in any proposed games involving De La Salle that it not be the Spartans' first game compared to the third or fourth for the other school involved.
"When Kahuku and St. Louis played this year in the state finals at Aloha Stadium there were 24,800 there, which was the highest attendance in the country for a single-game state championship," Anderson said. "They should get a lot more than that for these two games."
De La Salle will likely bring a 126-game winning streak to the islands. The Spartans' extended that streak last fall primarily by outlasting Poly, 29-15, in the most anticipated matchup in California history and then won their ninth consecutive CIF North Coast Section title. De La Salle finished No. 1 in the final Student Sports FAB 50 national rankings, which was its fourth No. 1 finish in seven years.
It remains to be seen where the Spartans will start out in the national rankings at the start of the 2002 season since they are losing two dominant players in lineman Derek Landri and quarterback Matt Gutierrez. But by now playing St. Louis as well as Poly (in a game that will be held two weeks after both squads are in Hawaii) the strength of schedule factor will surely be a plus for De La Salle.
The team's top returning players should be running back Maurice Drew, who scored all four of the team's touchdowns against Poly, defensive back Damon Jenkins and lineman Erik Sandie.
St. Louis has lost in the last two state title games to Kahuku, but was the best in the state for 13 straight years previously and has much more returning strength, on paper at least, than the Red Raiders. Three-year starting quarterback Bobby George, wide receiver Jason Rivers, and three all-state defensive picks -- DE Tolifili Liufau (6-3, 290), LB Timo Paepule (6-0, 195) and DB Jonah Lakatani (5-6, 150) -- are among the returnees.
St. Louis also has ended a long California winning streak before. In 1991, the Crusaders played Bakersfield, which had the state's longest streak at 39 games at the time, and won easily, 36-14. St. Louis also has posted wins within the last 15 years over California schools Clovis, Skyline of Oakland and Morse of San Diego and has a loss to California school Canyon of Canyon Country.
De La Salle's current winning streak is, of course, a bit longer. The Spartans broke the national record in 1997 and have taken the mark a staggering 53 games beyond the previous all-time best of 72 set in 1974 by Hudson, Mich.
"It's good for the school, the community and the state to play a team of De La Salle's caliber," St. Louis athletic director Cal Lee told Anderson. "You mention De La Salle anywhere and everybody knows who they are."
Lee, the winningest football coach in Hawaii history, added that the announcement of the game on Sept. 21 will not impact his decision to retire. A search for who the St. Louis coach will is still ongoing.
Kahuku will start the 2002 season with a 23-game winning streak. The Red Raiders were No. 13 in the final Student Sports FAB 50, but have a number of graduation-depleted starting positions to fill. Quarterback Inoke Funaki, running back Mulivai Pula and defensive end Jonathan Mapu are among those who will be gone.
Poly, which finished No. 3 in the final FAB 50 after winning its fourth CIF Southern Section Div. I title in five years, will be in a similar situation as Kahuku but not as extreme. While the Jackrabbits are losing some of the top college prospects in the nation -- like running back Herschel Dennis, defensive tackle Manual Wright, tight end Marcedes Lewis, offensive tackle Winston Justice and safety Darnell Bing -- they'll have some strong players back, too. Leon Jackson is expected to be a standout at quarterback, receiver Rodrick Jones is a blazing blur, and linemen Junior Lemauu, Kevin Brown and Hercules Satele are already on many college wish lists.
"This is an exciting opportunity for our players and coaches -- the top public school in California against the top public school team in Hawaii," Long Beach Poly athletic director Joe Carlson told Anderson.
It also will be the top private school team in California against the top private school team in Hawaii. And just think about this for a moment. If De La Salle gets through this trip plus beats Poly again with a squad that should be even better in 2003, this win streak thing may not end for another 10 years.