Kui Kahooilihala was loud and clear about one thing during a Wednesday phone call: There’s absolutely no way his Roosevelt football team is looking past in-town rival McKinley in Friday’s home game.
A glance at the schedule shows the Rough Riders’ two following games (at Pearl City and then at home against St. Francis) are against bona fide league and state Division II contenders. In Kahooilihala’s mind, thinking too far ahead is dangerous, and so he won’t worry about the Chargers or the Saints until it’s necessary.
“They’ll be ready,” he said about McKinley. “They have a great coach (Pat Silva) and they’re well-coached. Pat is not a guy who’s going to bring a team here and lay dead. We watched them play Pac-Five last week and they’re better now than when we watched them earlier in the season. Our coaches know Pat. He used to coach at Roosevelt. They know about his philosophy and what he does with the preparation with his kids. He’s going to bring it.”
McKinley (2-5, 0-4 OIA D-II) is coming off an impressive 28-24 win over Pac-Five.
It’s a bit of a different atmosphere around the Roosevelt campus this year. The Rough Riders are 6-1 (4-1 OIA D-II). In Kahooilihala’s first two seasons in 2016 and 2017, the Rough Riders went 2-6 and then 4-4. It’s been a steady climb, but there’s still a lot of football to be played.
“It’s something different,” he said. “The kids are excited and the coaches, too, but everybody knows it’s one game at a time. We’re not about stats. We don’t look past anybody.”
Kahooilihala talked about some of the things the program is doing that is making a difference.
“The framework that we always talk about is you’ve gotta execute,” he said. “Take care of your responsibility. The way we prepare is always a big deal because how you practice is how you are going to play.
“For us, it starts Saturday after we play on Friday nights. We watch film and go on the field for offense and defense. It’s all part of the process. We pick it up on Monday, and then Tuesday we go into watch film and get on the field again. We watch film at least three times a week. We don’t want to be big-headed. We want to take the same approach every week, every day. It’s all about winning the down. You gotta win the play. After that, it leads to winning the day and being successful.”
There is an interesting trend happening at Roosevelt. A year ago, against his normal way of doing things, Kahooilihala brought up two sophomores to play varsity. They are now juniors. In addition, this year’s varsity team has six sophomores (including a transfer from Damien who is sitting out a year) and three of them are starters. By the time they’re seniors, they could be highly seasoned competitors.
Mitch Camacho (404 yards rushing) and Myka Kukahiwa (288 yards rushing, four TDs) are the two sophomores from a year ago who are helping in a big way this year.
“We have a bunch of good running backs, including Keneke Gusman, who is a junior,” Kahooilihala said. “He plays defense so he hardly touches the ball. But he’s very special at running back and one kid people are going to hear about.”
Aalona Monteilh, who is a safety, is another player who contributes as a running back (and receiver) but is needed a bit more on defense, according to the coach.
Among the six sophomores that Kahooilihala is hoping are still part of the nucleus of the team for two more seasons are running back Josh Maikui, wide receiver Wesley James and center Egan Okami.
“Every week, every game, it’s going to be a tough game,” the coach said. “We know what’s at stake. We want to be consistent. We’re trying to be efficient on the field as far as schemes and what we’re doing. And in our division, we want to get to the top … eventually be champs in our division.”