After 18 seasons in high school coaching, Kelii Morgado is due for a break.
The Kapaa football coach has stepped down after six seasons with the Warriors. He revived a once-struggling program and led it to the KIF title in 2011.
He started at Kauai as an assistant coach, then was head coach for eight seasons, leading the program to four KIF championships.
“Originally, I thought I’d be around for 40 years, but 18 years, it’s time to move on. I’ve enjoyed it and I’m proud of the things we’ve accomplished,” he said. “I wanted to try and change the way football’s played on Kauai.”
Over a span of decades, KIF football was known for at least two truths: tough, smashmouth football and the task of playing your two opponents last least three times per season. The latter is still fact today, but the schematics of the game have changed. Morgado installed the four-wide shotgun attack, the run-and-shoot, at Kauai High.
“My first year, everyone thought I was an idiot. They told me you can’t teach Kauai kids Honolulu football,” said Morgado, a Punahou graduate. “But they can learn modern football and make adjustments in blocking and route-running. I was told I’d get eaten up with a four front by trap blocking. It took awhile.
“We got cracks at Kauai the first few years and at Kapaa the first few years. Now almost all the Pop Warner teams run the spread and even most of the alumni teams will spread it. I’m proud of how we’ve changed football on Kauai.”
Morgado noted that football on the Garden Island has always been at a high level.
“Waimea started it, showing that the KIF plays tough football,” he said, referring to the Menehune dynasty under Tommy Rita, and then Jon Kobayashi.
That was followed by Kauai’s remarkable run. His time there was seemingly cut short due to a controversial conflict with the principal at the time, and Morgado was forced out as coach in ’07.
A year later, he was welcomed in by Kapaa. He made adjustments to his personnel and equipped his team with I-formation sets along with the spread look when they won the KIF two years ago. They were still highly competitive this fall, going 4-4 overall with a 3-3 mark in league play. The Warriors lost to champion Kauai by a total of seven points in their three matchups.
“It’s hard to face a team three times. Sometimes, I wish we could combine with the OIA White so we could play somebody different. The KIF is so tough, there’s no doormat. the coaching has elevated,” he said.
Now, Morgado will have much more time for his family. Son Tiago is 10 and baby Mateo is 15 months old.
“It’s time for them to have their dad back,” he said. “I told my seniors, you were born the year that I started.”
He didn’t rule out the possibility of coaching again, but it probably won’t be at the prep level. Morgado envisions a role in administration someday, which means no high school coaching.