Hawaii school gets first win in 11 years, breaks 33-year drought

Cameron Smith
September 9, 2010

It took them 11 years to get a win, but many fans of Hawaii's Ka'u High School might feel the revelry was worth the wait. When the Trojans finally won, they didn't just beat anyone, they beat a historic rival that had dominated them for 33 years, knocking off Konawaena 12-0 on Friday.

Not surprisingly, few details have emerged about the matchup, which was largely ignored in Hawaii until after the fact because of Ka'u's longstanding futility. However, a Honolulu Star-Advertiser reporter was able to determine that both of the team's touchdowns were scored by Michael Alcoran, who brought in a 20-yard touchdown catch and ran 5 yards for another score.

"It's awesome for the entire Ka'u community and for all the alumni that are around the world," Robin Gomes, a Ka'u alumnus from just after the school's last win over Konawaena, told the Star-Advertiser. "It's such a small, tight-knit community. Everyone pretty much knows everyone."

That community's size is largely due to Ka'u being a very small place. The region is at the very southern tip of the Hawai'i island, and Ka'u High School is in Pahala, a tiny town of approximately 1,300 that was created by a large sugarcane orchard. A sugar refinery was set up to process all the cane that was harvested, and Pahala emerged as a significant Hawaiian town in the 1970s. Then, the long demise of sugar prices due to globalization led to a steep decline in per-capita income and, eventually, population around Pahala.

For years, the Ka'u football program made due with very limited resources and hoped for the best. But Friday's win might be a sign of changing times for the Trojans. Ka'u coach Greg Rush -- who also coaches other sports like baseball at the school -- has reportedly installed a version of the Piedmont A-11 offense, and while the Trojans might not score the 50 points-per-game some teams using the A-11 do, Ka'u has already scored 26 points in its first two games. That's a marked improvement on the 38 total points they scored in their eight-game 2009 campaign, and that 38-point total was the second-highest season mark they compiled since 2004.

While the additional scoring might seem like the program's breakthrough, stout defense is what truly earned Ka'u's first win in more than a decade. The Trojans hadn't recorded a shutout in memory, and gave up an average of 47 points per game last year. Only once in the past six seasons has the Ka'u defense allowed fewer than 40 points per game (the Trojans gave up 38 points per game in 2004-05).

So what next for Ka'u's football program? Whether it wins another game or not, the 2010 season will surely be seen as a success because the Trojans broke two losing streaks in a single week. If nothing else, that has returned pride to a team and region that needed it.

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