Aiea’s Say aims for players to meet their potential

Aiea quarterback Kobe Kato led Na Alii's comeback bid in a 42-27 loss in the first round of the OIA playoffs last Saturday. In photo, Kato is pictured throwing a pass in a regular-season game against Moanalua. George F. Lee / Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
Aiea quarterback Kobe Kato led Na Alii’s comeback bid in a 42-27 loss in the first round of the OIA playoffs last Saturday. In photo, Kato is pictured throwing a pass in a regular-season game against Moanalua. George F. Lee / Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

You couldn’t help but notice a twinge of disappointment in the eyes of Wendell Say after a first-round Oahu Interscholastic Association football first-round playoff loss last weekend.

You see, those same eyes before the game were probably glinting with the wonderful possibilities of what could actually happen with a win.

“The hardest part is getting the kids to reach their potential,” said Say, who knows a thing or two about coaching football. He just finished his 26th season as Na Alii’s head man.

And, if you think about it, his players certainly did not play up to their potential in the first half of the 42-27 loss at Leilehua to the Mules. That, obviously, was evidenced in the second-half effort that produced 27 comeback points.

There probably wasn’t one person in Hugh Yoshida Stadium that thought Aiea was going to score even one point, let alone 27.

When Aiea did score, Say made a brilliant move by going for two points. The conversion was successful, making the deficit 34 points (42-8) instead of the mercy-rule, clock-killing 35. It gave Na Alii time they desperately needed, but eventually did not have enough of.

“I told the kids at halftime that I’ve never known them to quit and that we weren’t going to start now. We made a lot of mistakes in the first half and kept shooting ourselves in the foot. We’re a better team than that and I didn’t want to see it end that way.”

It ended — and that shot of glory (not for Say as much as it would have been for the players he cares so much about) also known as a spot in either the state Open or Division I tournaments — did not materialize.

But, now, Say has leverage next season. All he has to do is show video of both halves and ask his players, ‘Do you want to be like this team in the first half or this team in the second half?’ ”

That second-half team was state-tournament material.

It’s a process to build a program. In Aiea’s case, that process is clear cut. It’s not a matter of ability. It’s a matter of stepping up and doing the right things at the right time.

Say, no doubt, is happy with the direction of the program. With a finish of 3-6 overall and 3-4 in the OIA Blue, the arrow is pointing up. In Na Alii’s three previous seasons, they went: 1-7 and 1-6 in 2015; 2-6 and 2-5 in 2014; and 2-6, 0-6 in 2013.


  1. Checkyoself October 12, 2016 2:27 pm

    Ummm… Sad to “Say”, but Leilehua had second and third string players in the second half.
    Aiea had a great second half yes. Every member of the mules team got their chance for some playing time.
    As for Aiea… Na alii needs more work period.
    Start with basic disciplined football. Back to the drawing board. Really good talented players but coaches need to put their aces in their places.
    All year long, Na alii have been out hustled on the battlefield. Good luck, hit the weights, and see you next year.

  2. ??? October 12, 2016 2:48 pm

    Maybe Aiea needs to go to a new coach who can prepare & motivate his team to compete from the start of the game instead of after halftime! “Just sayin”

  3. phILHarmonic October 12, 2016 3:07 pm

    Coach Say is a good man and has positively influenced so many players. He is selfless and has given so much for the program with no expectations of anything in return. When it is his time it will happen. Until then, thank you coach for all you do.

    Critics, have your resume ready.

  4. SpockU October 13, 2016 11:54 am

    Say it isn’t so. Dedicated coach for 26 years, time to hit the AD desk and give the young guns a shot at Na Alii head coach. Might reach his potential there!

  5. Bumbuchas October 13, 2016 2:04 pm

    Walk his shoes for a day and see what it’s like. You have no idea what it’s like dealing w/the ME entitled generation. Young Guns, wait till you gotta line the field, do the laundry, fundraise, deal & monitor w/their academics, run an off-season program which lengthens the FB time to 10 months of the year. Oh, let’s not forget the disgruntled Parents who in their eyes, their Johnny is always better then the guy in front of him or, ‘”what do mean my son gotta come practice everyday?” Haha, easy to say, Harder to do. Mahalo Coach Say for the many sacrifices you and your family endure to devote time to Na Alii FB. We know you never broke rules like the other OIA Schools to recruit!

  6. phILHarmonic October 13, 2016 3:02 pm

    @ bumbuchas

    Spoken well, and on point. He is the standard of class that many coaches should aspire to achieve.

    @ SpockU

    There are some very good “young Guns” that are currently coaching under him now, I hope that they put their names in when the opportunity arises.

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