Miano-Cougar Comeback Tops East Sports Stories In 2012

In a recent home game against Kalaheo, Kalani's Leo Klink (16) shows the technique that made him OIA and Gatorade Player of the Year. Photo by Rachel Breit, rbreit@midweek.com.

From the gridiron to the hardwood, from the baseball diamond to the track, 2012 will be remembered as an extraordinary year for East Oahu’s athletes and sports teams. A look at five of the top sports moments in 2012 follows.

Miano, Kaiser football team have memorable run

It didn’t take long for first-year head coach Rich Miano to put his stamp on the Cougar program, leading his alma mater to a 7-3 overall mark in the fall. Kaiser finished 7-1 in the OIA White conference, reeling off seven straight victories after having opened league play with a heartbreaking 21-20 loss to East foe Kalaheo. Kaiser’s dreams of winning a state title were ended in a loss to Nanakuli in the OIA DII title game, but 2012 was nevertheless a huge year for Cougar football. Several players were honored at season’s end for their efforts, led by Miano, who was chosen Coach of the Year by his peers.

Running back Kai Gonda was named White Conference Offensive Player of the Year, after averaging 7.2 yards per rushing attempt to go with 12 touchdowns. Gonda was chosen a First Team All-Star as an offensive utility player and a defensive back in addition to making the Second Team as a running back.

Joining Gonda on the First Team from Kaiser was lineman Casey Kumashiro, while Gonda (as a running back), Christian Clapp (wide receiver) and John Wendall Nisa (line) made the Second Team Offensive Team.

The defense also had a stellar year, yielding only 211.3 yards per game in 10 outings. Opposing coaches took notice of the Cougars’ personnel, selecting four Kaiser defenders – Fitou Fisiahi (line), Mana Chong-Gum (line-backer), Jeshua Bitanga (secondary) and Gonda (secondary) – to the First Team. Kaiser lineman Manase Palu made the Second Team.

Receiving Honorable Mention from Kaiser were Makana Lyman, Justin Ikei, Destin Moss, Jacob Pollard, Makena Kaneaikala, Joshua Prokraka, Zeno Choi, Trevin Kahunanui, Justin Isobe, Melvin Kahunanui, Vidli Kannys and Jordan Simao.

Kalani boys soccer team makes state title game; Klink named Hawaii Gatorade Player of the Year

Leo Klink scored the game-winning goal in overtime to lift Kalani to a 2-1 win over Kapolei in a thrilling semifinal game of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division I boys soccer state championships Feb. 17. Before a crowd of about 500 at Waipio Peninsula soccer stadium, Klink’s goal allowed the Falcons advance to the next day’s state title game (the program’s first state title game appearance since 2007) versus Mililani. Although the Falcons fell 3-0, their riveting post-season run was one of the feel-good stories of 2012. Kalani had upset second-seeded Punahou, 3-2, the day before in the quarterfinals on a goal in the closing minutes by Klink.

Kalani finished 15-2 overall, and Klink also was named OIA Player of the Year at season’s end.

Kalani football team has breakthrough season

Kalani continued its upward climb on the football field as the Falcons and head coach Greg Taguchi posted a 4-5 season, marking the program’s highest win total in nearly 20 years. They beat Waialua (33-14), Anuenue (49-27), Roosevelt (34-7) and Kalaheo (42-34). Several players were recognized for their efforts at season’s end, highlighted by OIA First Team All-Conference selections Gavin Kim and Shiloh Laboy as well as Second Team selection lineman Matt Haili. Kalani also placed Noah Brum, Enrique Gruver, Shaye Matsumoto, Nicholas Carroll, James Grandalen, Cooper Ellyn, Leo Klink, Charles Lum King, Shane Ra, Kaluna Kamakawiwoole and Isaac Akiona on the OIA’s Honorable Mention list.

Chaminade upsets Texas at Maui Invitational

Three decades after pulling off one of the biggest upsets in college basketball history, Chaminade knocked off another big-time opponent, this time Big Twelve Conference member Texas Nov. 19 in the first round of the Maui Invitational. The Division II Silverswords beat the Longhorns 86-73. The win came 30 years after Chaminade beat top-ranked Virginia and eventual NBA first-round pick Ralph Sampson in an upset nobody expected and few watched live.

This time, the world knew right away, as the game was televised nationally on ESPN and Chaminade immediately began trending worldwide on Twitter moments after the final horn. De’Andre Haskins scored 32 points and had nine rebounds to lead the way for the Silverswords, while freshman Kevin Hu came off the bench to score 16 points in 14 minutes.

Sampson was in attendance, as were former Chaminade great Tony Randolph and legendary Silversword head coach Merv Lopes.

Anuenue’s Kaleo among the state’s best running backs

Wins were hard to come by for the Anuenue football team in the fall, but running back Kainalu Kaleo established himself as one of the state’s best at his position, rushing for a Division II-best 1,441 yards to go with 16 touchdowns. Kaleo, who was named a First Team All-Star in the OIA White conference, scored at least one touchdown in every game and had three outings in which he topped the 200-yard mark.

Season highlights included a 336-yard rushing performance (on 22 carries) Aug. 18 versus eventual OIA DII runner-up Nanakuli.