Hawaii vs. Calif. hype reaches new level

Hype and buildup in Hawaii for this weekend's doubleheader involving De La Salle, Long Beach Poly, St. Louis and Kahuku moves into overdrive. Crowd estimates still high at between 30,000 to 40,000. And, yes, Maurice Drew of DLS is expected to play.

Last year's matchup between De La Salle of Concord and Poly of Long Beach, the nation's No. 1 and No. 2 teams at the time, was certainly a major showdown of epic proportions.

But three days before the Spartans and Jackrabbits met last year there was no press conference that attracted a throng of nearly 70 print and broadcast journalists.

That was the case on Thursday at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu as the four head coaches from this weekend's First Hawaiian Bank Football Classic answered questions about the event and their opponents.

The doubleheader in Hawaii that matches Long Beach Poly vs. two-time defending state champ Kahuku in the first game and De La Salle vs. longtime power St. Louis of Honolulu in the second game has received unprecedented coverage locally. It also could draw between 30,000 and 40,000 fans, mostly due to the presence of De La Salle and its national record 126-game winning streak.

California journalists know coach Bob Ladouceur of De La Salle puts no emphasis on the streak, but Hawaiians don't know that so one of the first questions to him was about it.

"Whenever the loss comes I know the seniors at the time won't be happy, but as a coaching staff we don't look at it that way," Ladoucuer said. "All we ask that they play with enthusiasm. There were times in the second half of our game with Long Beach Poly last year and with Mater Dei before that in which I thought I don't care how this turns out because I'm proud of the way we're playing."

De La Salle will be playing a St. Louis of Honolulu squad that is 2-0, with bye weeks sandwiched around games. It's a team that knows how to throw and has three-year quarterback Bobby George at the helm.

"Our kids are very excited and I know our athletic director is very excited to be here, but I'm not that excited," Ladoucuer said. "I have to go up against a very tough opponent that is very well coached."

At least Ladouceur knows his team won't be short-handed. He also acknowledged early in his Q & A with the media that standout running back Maurice Drew would be playing in the game. Drew suffered an ankle injury in the fourth quarter of last week's 24-0 win over Mitty of San Jose and he hobbled into the night on crutches and his ankle heavily taped.

"I don't know how his effectiveness will be, but he will play," Ladoucuer said. "I told the kids I'd be very disappointed if we hung our hat only on Maurice."

St. Louis coach Delbert Tengan said the toughest task in playing De La Salle is getting his team to adjust to the Spartans' super-quick tempo.

"In a lot of their big games I notice they get out to great starts and they lead 14-0 or 21-0," Tengan said. "It takes teams a while just to get used to their quickness and execution."

Tengan was a longtime assistant at St. Louis under coach Cal Lee and he's not used to his team being the underdog.

"When was the last time everybody thought we were going to lose?" Tengan said. "I've got a two-game winning streak. He's got 126."

The funniest lines of the press conference belonged to Siuaki Luvai, the head coach at Kakuku, whose team only won last week 14-13 over McKinley.

"I'm still at level one with this team," he said. "I can't run plays on offense with a defense even out there yet. We'll just see how we do with our own defense in practice before we think about Long Beach Poly."

Livai also added: "I was hoping they wouldn't get here until Saturday morning, but here they are."

Long Beach Poly's Raul Lara didn't buy any of that talk.

"We are concerned about their size," Lara said. "It also worries me that they had a close game. As coaches, we know he now has their attention."

Lara's own team, despite winning 45-0 over Westchester of Los Angeles, also needs to improve its execution.

"I'm more worried about us and what we need to do, not so much what they might do," he said.

NOTES

De La Salle arrived in Honolulu on Wednesday and practiced at Aloha Stadium in the afternoon. The Spartans practiced again Thursday at the University of Hawaii and will do another walk through on Friday at the stadium, but in the morning Friday they will tour the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial. Long Beach Poly did not arrive until Thursday and immediately went to the stadium to practice before heading on over to Waikiki for hotel check in.

SportsHigh.com, a website devoted to Hawaii prep sports, took a poll of those in attendance at the press conference and found that every journalist from California picked De La Salle to beat St. Louis while everyone from Hawaii with only a handful of exceptions picked St. Louis. Interestingly, only a small number of the Hawaii media members picked Kahuku. Most from Hawaii and all from California chose Long Beach Poly.


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