Not being involved in football for eight years may be one of the best things that ever happened to Blaze Soares.
Now that he’s back — as an assistant coach — he full appreciates how fortunate he is to have rekindled his love of the game.
“I fell out of it and wasn’t really in love with the sport anymore,” said Soares, the former Castle and University of Hawaii linebacker, about the time after his college eligibility ended in 2009.
But before the 2017 season, his uncle Wendell Domingo offered him a spot as an assistant with the Kalaheo JV team.
“I started going to practice and started to fall in love with the game that I was around my whole life,” he said. “Now, it feels like I never missed a beat. It’s exciting now. I get to teach kids thing that coaches like Cal Lee, Jerry Glanville and Greg McMackin taught me. I have a lot of knowledge that I can pass on to these kids. It gives me a lot of joy in my heart.”
That type of compassionate talk is 180 degrees from Soares’ mentality on the field. He is known as one of the hardest hitting linebackers ever in the state.
Soares is now the Kalaheo varsity team’s defensive coordinator, and the Mustangs appear to be getting in line with Soares’ leave-no-prisoners bent. The team is off to a 2-3 start, with the defense recording two shutouts.
“Coach Darrell (Poole) offered me a spot this year,” he said. “Being at Kalaheo, I know there are a lot of challenges. We’re not known for our football program. It’s a building process for us. It’s a challenge and I like challenges; never turn down a challenge. Getting these kids tuned in to football and learning the right way is a big challenge.”
Soares talked specifially about what his boys are accomplishing so far:
“They’re students. They’re really green. They didn’t know the keys, what to look for, who to read. But as weeks went on they became students of the game, evolving to buy into what us coaches are teaching them. They’re open to learning and getting themselves better.
“They’re starting to believe in my philosophy, which is play every play 100 percent and if you happen to screw up, you’re going to screw up 100 percent. Lay some hats. Fly to the ball. Real physical. If you watch our team up front, we’re real physical on the line of scrimmage. They love to hit and love to fly to the ball.
“As a DC, I’m really focused on the linebackers and teaching them to be going downhill, teaching them to bang and to let your pads do the talking. To bring it. I like the linebackers to set the tempo with nice big hits so you can hear the pads. I hear that, I’m satisfied.”
Many Castle and UH fans remember hearing the pads banging when Soares made a tackle.
Soares and his wife run a laser hair removal business and have two young children.
“When my uncle first offered the JV position, I was 50-50. Now I’m 120 percent in. I’m studying and watching videos for hours, looking for coaches’ tendencies. It’s like when I was in college and I never missed a beat. My wife has to tell me to go to sleep.”
Soares said his non-football days were a good thing.
“I had to find myself,” he said. “I had to settle down. Now I can give back to the community. Maybe in the future, me and my wife talk about trying to get to the next level. She likes that I’m getting involved. My family is very supportive.”
Even though Soares was known for his physicality in high school, that part of him really blossomed under linebackers coach Cal Lee at UH.
“He always likes real physical kids,” Soares said about Lee. “He taught me how to be a real physical hitter. That’s what he wanted and that’s what he demanded. I took that mentality to be a tough, aggressive downhill player. And I’m passing it on to the kids now. Coach Cal brought that out in me more. He knew how to turn it on and turn it off. As he used to say, go out there and scramble those eggs.”
What about Poole’s Mustangs and the possibility of taking things far into the playoffs?
“Our kids are in shape,” he said. “The starting O-line is the starting D-line. The running backs are the linebackers. They do not leave the field. If we can slip by Pearl City (tonight at the Kailua High field) and get a win, we’ll be contenders. It will be a hard challenge and I look forward to it. The most important thing is that we are getting dialed in and focused for this week and let the chips fall. Whether we win every game or not, we’ll still be trying to get better and better — better than yesterday. That’s what we try to do.”