Thomas Yam’s first varsity start remains vivid in his memory.
“I knew I was going to play, but I didn’t know I was going to go in that early,” Yam recalled of his debut at Waianae in Kamehameha’s 2015 season opener. “But going in there I just had to calm myself down. I was nervous in front of the Waianae crowd and I had to lean on my seniors to help me settle down and just play the game.”
The sophomore worked through the jitters to complete nine of 18 attempts for 147 yards, including a 47-yard touchdown to Kumoku Noa. A week later he set the program’s single-game record with 323 passing yards in a rout of Baldwin.
An injury ended Yam’s sophomore season early in the ILH schedule and his record lasted a little over a month before Justice Young surpassed that mark twice later in the season.
Yam regained the starting job as a junior and earned second-team All-ILH D-I honors. He returns for his third season now in a position to provide the Warriors’ youngsters the guidance he received two years ago.
Kamehameha is ranked No. 7 in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser preseason top 10.
“It’s a lot of pressure bringing the younger guys up and taking them under my wing like how I came up as a sophomore (and) the seniors took me under their wing,” Yam said. “As a senior you’re put into that leadership role and feel I have to lead by example and show them the ropes.”
Second-year Kamehameha coach Abu Maafala praised Yam’s offseason work in refining his skills and the experience has given him greater ease in the pocket.
“Coach has been teaching me how to read defenses and identifying and just slowing down the game,” Yam said. “Slowing down the pace and making sure everybody is on the same page.”
Yam is part of a senior class looking to lead a breakthrough for the seventh-ranked Warriors after three straight third-place finishes in the ILH Division I standings.
Senior defensive end Jonah Welch said the Warriors have embraced Maafala’s message of pulling together during offseason training.
“Everybody’s got the same goal, chase for the ring,” Welch said. “So that’s a big thing, become more of a team, a unit, no cliques, no separate groups.”
Welch said he has eight FBS offers — Navy, Air Force, Army, Syracuse, Vanderbilt, Nevada, Hawaii and New Mexico — with two more from Dartmouth and UC Davis.
While Welch is enjoying the recruiting process “at the end of the day all that matters is being with the team and being one for the team.”
The Warriors had a scrimmage with Kahuku on Thursday with another scheduled against Mililani on Saturday morning. They’ll open the season down the hill from the Kapalama campus on Aug. 4 in the inaugural game at Farrington’s Skippa Diaz Stadium.
“It’s going to be an unbelievable, almost college-like atmosphere,” Maafala said. “Playing at Farrington on Skippa Diaz field, there couldn’t be a better game scheduled for the christening of that field and for us to open the season. We’re really, really excited.”