One Of The Best Times Of The Year

September is one of my favorite times of year. Perhaps it’s because it’s my birthday month (Sept. 7, for all you inquiring minds) – or probably because it marks the start of another football season and yet another year of conference sports at all levels.

Here’s a little bit of this and that for the month of September:

The University of Hawaii football team plays its first home game next Saturday (Sept. 15) at Aloha Stadium against visiting Lamar. I’m excited for new head coach Norm Chow, who should pick up the first home win of his long and storied career. I’ve been a big fan of Coach Chow ever since his BYU days, when his offenses could confound just about any defense stacked up against them.

I still recall a warm September day in Provo, Utah, in the early ’90s when Chow came up with a brilliant last-second pass play for the Cougars to set up an improbable game-winning field goal against UH. It was a heartbreaking loss for Hawaii, who just moments earlier thought they had a chance for a huge road win. Here’s hoping he can now put the heartbreak on Hawaii’s foes this season and for years to come.

Coach Norm Chow at practice. Nathalie Walker photo. nwalker@midweek.com

I’m thrilled to see that former UH star Eddie Klaneski has his Damien Monarchs off to a great start this high school season. Damien won its first three games of the preseason to begin the year undefeated at 3-0. Klaneski, the former tough-as-nails slotback/defensive back, is the answer to one of my all-time favorite trivia questions: Who has the record for most tackles in a game by a UH Warrior? (23, set in September 1996 against Fresno State for the increasingly inquisitive).

Damien, which will contend for the DII title this year, opens the very tough ILH season this Saturday against DI powerhouse Punahou.

It’s great to see that two local players made the USA Today preseason All-American football team, and it will be fun to watch this month. Punahou’s Canton Kaumatele is a giant of a prospect at 6-feet-7 inches tall and 260 pounds. Amazingly, he’s just a sophomore and could eventually be one of the highest recruited high school stars from the Islands since Manti Te’o. The other local mentioned is 6-4, 275-pound senior Scott Pagano of Moanalua, who’s already made a verbal commitment to play for Clemson. Both Kaumatele and Pagano are defensive linemen.

Finally, he may only be an eighth-grader, but don’t be surprised if you hear the name Chris Kobayashi in the years ahead. The Punahou middle-schooler is a fleet-footed receiver in football, a sure-handed setter in volleyball, and a scoring machine as a basketball guard. Recently, in a big AAU tournament in Las Vegas where he played for coach Tes Whitlock, Kobayashi had high scoring games of 44 points, 39 points and 33 points (twice).

The neat thing about his story is that family friend Derrick Low came to watch him play. Kobayashi has known the former Iolani superstar since the age of 5. And like Low, who also was raising eyebrows with his amazing scoring efforts back in junior high, Kobayashi “played up” by competing in the 14-under and 15-under division as well as his 13-under age group.

Kobayashi spent part of this past month at a football camp in Japan and also did some volunteer work in one of the areas hit hart by last year’s devastating earthquake and tsunami. He’s definitely a name to put on your watch list as the 2012 sports season starts fresh this September.