SUMMER summary: Kalaheo Mustangs

Kalaheo players got together for a group shot early during the 1-7 season a year ago. Dennis Oda / Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii Prep World will be releasing summer previews of all 29 Oahu varsity football teams in advance of the 2017 season that kicks off in early August.

17TH IN A SERIES

KALAHEO MUSTANGS

>> 2016 record and finish: 1-7 (1-6 OIA D-II); did not qualify for OIA D-II playoffs

>> Number of returning starters: 7

>> Number of returning seniors: 5

>> Number of starters lost to graduation: 14

>> Number of seniors lost to graduation: 19

>> Honolulu Star-Advertiser All-State selections lost to graduation: None

>> Honolulu Star-Advertiser All-State selections returning: None

>> Among 2017 key offensive returnees: Justus Neufeldt, Sr., RB/LB, 5-11, 200; Josiah Akau, Jr., LB/RB, 5-9, 160; Nathaniel Gribbons, Sr., WR/S; 6-3, 170; Damien Veerman, Sr., SB/DB, 5-9, 160; Ethan Toguchi-Tani, Sr., OL/DL; 6-4, 260; Isaiah Tigilau-Kiaaina, Jr., OL/DL, 5-10, 250; Kahanu Gerona Sr., OL/DL, 6-4, 300

>> Among 2017 key defensive returnees: Neufeldt, Akau, Gribbons, Veerman, Toguchi-Tani, Gerona

>> Mustangs with Division I FBS college offers: None

>> All-time state championships: None

>> All-time Prep Bowl (1973-1999) championships: None

>> All-time OIA championships: None

>> 2017 conference: OIA D-II

>> 2017 state tournament declaration: D-II

Head coach DARRELL POOLE on the Mustangs’ outlook for 2017:

“As far as last year went, we struggled with 29 players on the team and the biggest obstacle we had was only five linemen throughout the year. It was a numbers game on offense and defense. Kalaheo has always had to use two-way players.

“I’m optimistic for this year. We’ve got a better group of linemen coming. What’s hurting us at Kalaheo is the enrollment. I think we’ve got about 700 kids and more than half of that are girls.

“There were a couple of games that could have gone either way last year. If we won them, we would have made the playoffs. I’m going into my sixth year as head coach and one of the things missing is a nucleus of kids who really believe in each other. This year, we have a lot of players up from the JV team that lost the championship game to Waipahu. With them and the core of kids who were on varsity last year (who made the playoffs as a JV squad two years ago), it could make a heckuva difference for us as a team.

“It was hit and miss last year. We kind of got complacent on what we were doing, both as a coaching staff and a team. The positive thing is they battled to the end and that was an accomplishment with the amount of kids we had on the team. Since we started doing 7s (7-on-7 pass league), we’ve got a steady group of 18 kids out there. We’re really pleased in the direction and they’re beginning to believe in each other in the sense of a family.

“Among the kids we’ve got coming back, we’ll be leaning on a running back and defensive end from last year to play quarterback this year, Justus Neufeldt. He was a JV quarterback. We lost a good QB, Mark Lehrner, who will play for La Verne in California, a Division III team. That’s a plus as far as the program goes. Neufeldt will still be going both ways, but only on defense in certain situations. We need him to be 100 percent on offense.

“Watching two returnees on the offensive line, Ethan Toguchi-Tani and Kahanu Gerona, this summer has been a treat. They’re going to be a plus this season.

“If we stick together as a team, we’ll be competitive in the division. A lot of teams have returning quarterbacks and we’re probably the only team that doesn’t have one. I think we’re going to be fine when the season starts.

“One of the biggest problems last year was we were in games and had defensive breakdowns. A new defensive coordinator, Shannon Aiwohi, brings a lot to the team. We couldn’t stop the run last year. I think we can do that this year. I’m looking for great things out of the JV kids that are moving up to varsity. Seven of our returning starters are two-way players.

“The workouts have been great since February. When school starts, we might get more kids. On paper, we have 29 kids on the varsity and it might grow. We’re struggling right now with numbers on the JV, only 10 kids out. That’s unusual at Kalaheo. It’s not like our JV program hasn’t been successful. We’re hoping for the best and think things will turn around. Our JV coach, Wendell Domingo, who is from the Kaneohe Pop Warner program, he’s a great coach and has a great staff. one of his DCs is (former Castle and University of Hawaii star linebacker) Blaze Soares.

“If we can get a nucleus of our core kids to develop a love for the team, a love for teammates, then the future will look pretty bright for us.

“With all these sports year-round, it’s pretty tough. We’ve got kids in baseball and basketball in the summer and I think you win games during February. It’s kind of rough when you can’t have true offseason training. In 7-on-7, the core kids are holding it together. Hopefully the other kids will come out and things will get even better.

“Some new members of the coaching staff are bringing energy to the team, and the ultimate goal is to win the championship. It has always been a goal. An intermediate goal is to make the playoffs. Once you do that, it reverts to 0-0 for all teams and anything can happen.”

2017 Kalaheo football schedule
Subject to change. Click here for the latest schedule updates.
Thursday, July 27
>> Kalaheo vs. Damien and Nanakuli (three-team scrimmage at Nanakuli)

Friday, Aug. 4
>> Kalaheo at Kamehameha-Maui (nonleague)

Saturday, Aug. 12
>> Waipahu vs. Kalaheo, at Kailua High field

Saturday, Aug. 19
>> Kalaheo vs. McKinley, at Ticky Vasconcellos Stadium

Friday, Sept. 1
>> Kalaheo at Pearl City

Friday, Sept. 8
>> Roosevelt vs. Kalaheo, at Kailua High field

Friday, Sept. 22
>> Waialua vs. Kalaheo, at Kailua High field

Saturday, Sept. 29
Kalaheo vs. Kalani, at Kaiser Stadium

Friday, Oct. 6
>> Kalaheo vs. Kaimuki, at Skippa Diaz Stadium

2017 Kalaheo varsity football staff
>> Head coach: Darrell Poole (12-32, sixth season)
>> Offensive coordinator and wide receivers: Kiona Siliga
>> Assistant offensive coordinator and quarterbacks: Gabby Hassel
>> Running backs: Derek Poole
>> Offensive line: Clint Daniels
>> Defensive coordinator and linebackers: Shannon Aiwohi
>> Co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs: Chad Amasiu
>> Defensive line: Mark Solomon
>> Defensive backs: Jay Barbadillo

Projected next up: McKinley Tigers

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