Ka‘u ends 33 seasons of Wildcat dominance

by Jerry Campany on September 7, 2010

Former Ka‘u football player Robin Gomes recalled the years — decades — of losing to Konawaena, but his older brother Jeff, actually enjoyed the most recent victory by the Trojans over the Wildcats back in 1977.

When the Trojans ended that losing streak by toppling Konawaena over the weekend, 12-0, former players could finally breathe a sigh of relief.

“In 1977, we had a huge team, like almost 40 guys,” former player Jeff Gomes said. “We beat everybody in the first half (of the season). We even beat Hilo. But we had attitudes. Guys stopped coming to practice. Our halfback quit.”

Then-coach Bobby Barba stood his ground, but the Trojans fell apart in the latter half of the season. What could’ve been a promising ’78 season was derailed before it could begin.

“The following year, the seniors flunked out,” Gomes said of the first year of the DOE’s 2.0 grade-point minimum.”

Reduced to 20 underclassmen, the school cancelled the season for safety reasons.

“I was 145 pounds,” Gomes said of his sophomore season, “and I was one of the biggest guys.”

The Big Island Interscholastic Federation penalized the program with a two-year probation at the varsity level. Suddenly, Gomes’ high school career was over.

He’s now a woodworker in Hilo, reveling in the win over Konawaena.

“It’s awesome for the entire Ka‘u community and for all the alumni that are around the world,” said Robin Gomes, who was not quite in high school yet when the Trojans, including his brother Jeff, beat Konawaena.

Robin, like many of his teammates, now lives away from his home town. He’s a graphic artist in Honolulu.

“It’s such a small, tight-knit community. Everyone pretty much knows everyone.”

The same goes with Jeff.

“People ask me where I’m from, I tell ‘em, ‘I’m from Ka‘u.’ ”

Paul Honda, Star-Advertiser

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

WeRunHI September 10, 2010 at 12:47 am

No offense, but Big Island football sucks. No BIIF team has ever made noise in the State Tourney. My question is why? They've had a couple of athletes here and there, but as far as team athleticism and size, it is really lacking. I don't mean to be offensive by my comments, more so, inquisitive as to why football programs in Big Island aren't succeeding like Maui and Kaua'i.

pupulepaul September 10, 2010 at 10:42 am

The main reason is numbers. Most schools have less than 1,200 enrollment, and most teams have less than 40 players. Compare that to the numbers on Oahu, where the top teams have 50, 75, 90 players.

In addition, the wet weather on the Hamakua Coast makes it extra difficult to develop a balanced offense. When half or two-thirds of your games are in mud, eventually as a coach you have to submit to the reality that your team needs to prepare for that kind of weather.

The best teams in BIIF history were balanced teams, or pass-first teams. Konawaena's best team ever during the 1980-91 dynasty came to Oahu the week before a Prep Bowl and nearly upset Saint Louis. Both teams were stacked; Saint Louis in the midst of its dynasty under Cal Lee and Konawaena had the Kona Coast's best players under Jim Barry, long before Kealakehe opened and split the talent pool.

Break down the programs statewide by enrollment, and BIIF teams would be highly competitive. Hawaii Prep has an enrollment of roughly 350, but its team this year would beat plenty of opponents in D-II and quite a few in D-I.

It's about population centers. Numbers. Coaching, tradition and physical traits factor in, too. But the main reason is sheer numbers.

WeRunHI September 12, 2010 at 9:25 pm

How does Kahuku apply to that numbers theory?

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