Lee’s 28 pts. highlighted the first-ever ‘Iolani-Damien game in 1965

‘Iolani senior fullback Dale Lee found lots of room around left end en route to a 50-yard touchdown run in the Raiders’ 34-6 victory over ILH newcomer Damien at what was then called “Father Bray Field.” (Honolulu Advertiser photo Nov. 16, 1965)

When ‘Iolani plays host to Damien at 3:15 p.m. Friday in a crucial Interscholastic League of Honolulu football showdown, it will be the latest chapter in a tradition-filled rivalry that dates back to Nov. 15, 1965.

That was Damien’s first varsity season, coming three years after the school opened its doors at the current Houghtailing Street campus in Kalihi. The Monarchs’ head coach was former Roosevelt and University of Hawai’i quarterack Don “Spud” Botelho, who would become the first head coach at HUMMERS/Pac-Five eight years later. Imagine … two of the ILH’s current six programs (one-third!) was started by the same man. Way to go, Coach Bo!

Anyway, things were understandably rough that first season for Damien, which entered the game at 0-6-1. ‘Iolani was 4-3 but still fighting for a coveted spot in the prestigious annual Thanksgiving Day doubleheader at Honolulu Stadium.

Interestingly, although ‘Iolani had moved from Nu’uanu to the Ala Wai campus in 1953, this would reportedly be only the second varsity home game at what was then called “Father Bray Field.” And the first home game was only two months prior, against Hilo in the season opener. All other games in the previous 12 seasons were played either at Honolulu Stadium, Neighbor Island venues or one game at Leilehua (1958), Castle (1960) and ‘Aiea (1964).

This first-ever 1965 meeting between ‘Iolani and Damien also was perhaps the only “Monday Afternoon Football” game in either school’s history, as the original Friday afternoon kickoff was postponed three days due to a torrential rainstorm over the weekend.

But once the game did start, Lee wasted no time in lighting up the scoreboard. On just the third play from scrimmage, he found room around left end and scampered 50 yards for his first touchdown, then kicked the extra point himself. The later in the first quarter, Lee intercepted a pass from Damien quarterback Robin Freitas and turned it into a 62-yard pick-six, adding the PAT again to make it 14-0.

He then added a third TD on a three-yard run late in the second quarter to extend the lead to 20-0, but missed the extra point — a bit tired, perhaps?

The Monarchs closed it to 20-6 just before halftime on Freitas’ three-yard scoring pass to running back Chuck Makua.

In the third quarter, Lee scored on a six-yard touchdown run and then ran in the two-point conversion to put the Raiders up, 28-6.

Lee’s total of 28 points scored was a season-high for the ILH that season, and he finished the game with 90 yards rushing on 14 carries.

More importantly, his all-around effort and the team’s performance under soggy conditions helped ‘Iolani improve to 5-3 and remain in contention for a berth in that Thanksgiving Day doubleheader, which often drew sellout crowds of 25,000 in those days.

Fast-forward (a lot) some 57 years later to this Friday, and here comes Damien again to visit what is now called Eddie Hamada Field (at the Father Bray Athletic Complex). Mr. Hamada, of course, was ‘Iolani’s head coach and athletic director when the two schools first met in 1965.

There’s no wooden bleachers anymore, and the tennis courts that were behind those bleachers are gone, replaced by the Weinberg Building on the Diamond Head side and a four-story parking structure on the ‘Ewa end. Both schools — which were all-boys back then — are co-ed now.

But the stakes are high, each team fighting for the right to represent the ILH in next month’s Division I state tournament. Their game against each other last month was a thriller, with Allison Chang’s 24-yard field goal in the closing minutes being the difference for ‘Iolani’s 13-12 victory.

No matter the outcome Friday, it is great to see that 57 years after their first meeting on that November afternoon in 1965, we can still watch Damien and ‘Iolani go head-to-head in the ILH with much on the line.

The tradition continues …

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