12th IN A SERIES
This summer, head coaches from all 28 Oahu high school varsity football teams are being asked to recount their football playing days.
One coach interviewed for this multi-part series pointed out what he thinks may be the value of this endeavor:
“A lot of times, you only hear about coaches when they’re getting released or are having a special season. It’s super hard to have a special season, so this should shed more light on them as people and their journey of when they were student-athletes. It’s going to bring more respect to the people who are doing this job. They didn’t all of a sudden become a high school coach because they coached Pop Warner. These guys have gone through it all, they’ve run the gamut of experiences.”
Some made it to the NFL. Others went to big colleges. Still others went the small-college route. They started as young’uns and got the bug, falling in love with football and taking pride in passing on their knowledge.
Along with the coaches’ look-back at their football-playing pasts, they also give their outlook on where their programs are at heading into the 2019 season.
COACH DANIEL SANCHEZ AND THE 2019 FARRINGTON GOVERNORS
Daniel Sanchez made an unselfish decision as a senior in high school, and while it may have taken a little of the limelight away, it helped his Farrington Governors.
He was in the same backfield as Randall Okimoto in the 1990 season.
“We were both playing half and we were both playing tail,” Sanchez said. “I talked with coach (Skippa) Diaz at the time and told him I could block better than Randall and it didn’t matter who got the ball. We had been gaining about 90 yards each in scrimmages and preseason games. It was best for the team that I took the fullback role.”
When he was a freshman on the JV team, he played on the defensive side of the ball and became a running back the next year.
“Coach Charlie Williams, who was the JV coach at that time, said, ‘You’re fast. Do you want to play running back?’ I envisioned myself as John Riggins and went over there.”
Both Sanchez and Okimoto were about 165 pounds.
“We were the smallest backfield duo I can remember going back that Farrington ever had,” Sanchez said. “We were about the same weight and the same size.”
Sanchez was also a speedster on the track.
Football for Sanchez started with the Palama Settlement Scorpions in the fourth grade, and he stayed on that team until his first JV season with the Govs. He was a defensive end, center and defensive back.
“When I became a fullback in high school, it actually helped me that I had played center for Palama,” he said. “I didn’t have issues with bigger guys because of the pad level. I was smaller than most guys so I could get lower.”
And Sanchez didn’t mind the toughest assignments.
“Any tall lineman can double team defensive linemen, but go pick up that linebacker 1-on-1,” he said. “The fullback had to go.”
It wasn’t all peaches and cream, though.
“I paid the price with my body my senior year,” Sanchez said. “We played Montclair Prep (a 28-7 win) and I broke my forearm on a 60- or 70-yard run. It was a horse-collar tackle. I got pulled down from behind and my left arm went out to block the fall. I broke my forearm and played a month before I went to the doctor, who said, ‘Hey, your forearm is broken. You’ve been playing all this time?’ He made me a cast to play the games in. Prior to that I had a torn rotator cuff, but I only missed one game, the Kahuku game, when I dislocated my knee. Besides the team, nobody knew I was hurt.
“I used to be taped up big-time back then. Now, there’s no way you’re going to play with those injuries.”
Sanchez, who had three shoulder surgeries by the time he was done playing football, added that his shoulder would pop out when he sneezed. He was not pressed into saying whether he was joking or not.
“I was the first guy in the training room,” he said. “They would tape my forearm, knee, ankles and I was the last guy in the locker room (before the game). Coach Diaz would put his arm around me and say, ‘Hey Gandule (like the Puero Rican rice; Sanchez is Puerto Rican), you ready?’ And we would walk out together.”
The next stop for Sanchez was Snow College in Utah, where he again injured his shoulder and had several concussions.
“One was pretty bad that came against Brant Boyer, who went on to play for Dick Tomey at Arizona and went to the NFL (Miami, Jacksonville, Cleveland).
A few minutes after that hit, the team moved to another field for a different drill but Sanchez said he remained there on that same sideline in a daze.
“While at Snow, my shoulder required a third surgery and that’s when I realized my playing days were over. I had two screws and staples in my shoulder, but every time I got hit, it affected me. My career was kind of done.”
The biggest moment for Sanchez came when the Governors won the 1990 OIA championship, clinched when they beat Waianae 15-7 in the title game.
“That’s gotta be the top highlight, bringing home the OIA championship to Kalihi,” he said. “It was an awesome feeling and the community really showed its love and support. That was awesome.”
And one of the men on Sanchez’s staff now helped light a fire under the Farrington players prior to that game.
“Bill Ka’ai was the defensive coordinator that year,” Sanchez said. “There were offensive and defensive meetings that day. The ‘D’ came out teary eyed, so the offensive guys asked what’s going on. Coach Ka’ai gave a speech about 1965, when he was playing and they won the ILH championship (in a 16-6 win over Kamahemaha). Emotion was all over the defensive guys’ faces. They told us that Ka’ai told them in a heartfelt speech that he wanted them to realize that this game was bigger than a football game. It was for the school and all the alumni. That inspired the offensive guys.”
Sanchez’s buddy, Okimoto, rushed for 2,149 yards and 33 touchdowns in 14 games that 1990 season.
“Randall was tough,” he said. “You didn’t need to make the biggest holes. He was quick and, for a blind guy, he had the best peripheral vision. He used to wear those goggles. He was legally blind. So it was about finding little holes and setting up blocks. On sweeps, Randall would set it up so nicely that it made it so easy for me.”
Of course, Sanchez has deep feelings of respect for Diaz, who Farrington’s new stadium is named for.
“Skippa was strict and he demanded things a certain way,” he said. “He cared about us, what we did and how we presented ourselves. He was the guy. He had a heart for us. He wanted to see the best out of us, make sure we succeeded. When I started coaching, he would come to games and we would always talk story. He was so proud that his former players were now coaching and living up to his standards.”
Sanchez’s high school coaching started in 2000 at Farrington and he assisted head coach Okimoto for a decade. Along the way, he spent some time as the JV head coach and he was supposed to be Okimoto’s offensive coordinator in 2010 but moved to Pennsylvania for three years.
“I ended up coming back and was the JV head coach before becoming Randall’s OC in 2015,” he said.
After Okimoto stepped down, Sanchez took over the varsity program starting with the 2018 season.
Prior to coaching the Govs, Sanchez coached the Kalakaua Monarchs in Pop Warner from 1992 through ’99.
With one year under his belt as the head man at Farrington, Sanchez is looking forward to the 2019 season.
“Last year was a new direction and we were getting the kids to buy into that direction,” he said. “The more they started buying in as the season went on, the more successful we were. This year, we are putting a lot of stress on accountability and putting in the work and showing up on time and being committed.
“What I liked about last year was they never gave up. They knew it was a tough schedule, but they kept competing regardless of who we played. We came to play. And we never had to worry about guys missing practice or leaving the team. We were in most games into the fourth quarter. We need to find ways to finish this year. That’s why in the offseason this year, we’ve revamped the way we train and get ready for the season. The emphasis is on finishing.”
Two on Sanchez’s staff will add expertise in important areas.
Kealoha Pilares, the former Damien running back who played for the Carolina Panthers, is the speed and quickness coach, and Asai Gilman, who runs Education 1st Hawaii (which provides college and career readiness for student-athletes), is the defensive backs coach.
2019 FARRINGTON GOVERNORS AT A GLANCE
>> 2018 record and finish: 2-10 (1-4 OIA Open); Lost 47-7 to Mililani in OIA Open semifinals; Lost 42-26 in OIA Open third-place game.
>> Head coach Daniel Sanchez’s staff:
— Lake Ka’ai (offensive coordinator)
— Al Tufono (defensive coordinator)
— Aaron Kamau (offensive line)
— Davis Miyashiro (offensive line)
— Jason Mane (receivers)
— Murphy Kealoha (receivers)
— Robby Hong (running backs)
— Asai Gilman (defensive backs)
— Ben Kamau (defensive backs)
— Brandon Vaa (linebackers)
— Iosefa Trask (defensive line)
— Billy Ka’ai (defensive line)
— Kealoha Pilares (speed and quickness)
— Peter Kim (kickers)
>> Approximate varsity and JV numbers: 55 varsity, 50 JV
>> Honolulu Star-Advertiser All-State selections returning: None
>> Honolulu Star-Advertiser All-State selections lost to graduation: None
>> Players with Division I FBS college offers: Faaope Laloulu, Sr., OL, 6-7, 350.
>> Among 2019 key returnees: Raymond Millare, Jr., RB/REC, 5-9, 160; Selau Kalani, Sr., DB, 5-6, 148; Tony Paleafei, Jr., DB, 5-7, 160: Sisi Collins, Jr., OL, 6-4, 316; Kobey Sula, Sr., OL, 5-10, 278; AJ Fernandez, Sr., slotback, 5-5, 121.
>> All-time state championships: None
>> All-time Prep Bowl (1973-1998) championships: None
>> All-time OIA championships: 1 (1990, D-I)
>> All-time ILH championships: 2 (1944, D-I; 1965, D-I)
>> 2019 conference: OIA Open
COMING NEXT IN “GLORY DAYS”:
Part 13: Coach Scott Melemai and the 2019 Kalani Falcons
Previously in the series:
>> Coach Darren Johnson and the 2019 Campbell Sabers
>> Coach John Hao and the 2019 Castle Knights
>> Coach Eddie Klaneski and the 2019 Damien Monarchs
>> Coach David Tautofi and the 2019 Kaimuki Bulldogs
>> Coach Kale Ane and the 2019 Punahou Buffanblu
>> Coach Mike Fanoga and the 2019 Waianae Seariders
>> Coach Bryson Carvalho and the 2019 Waipahu Marauders
>> Coach Mark Kurisu and the 2019 Leilehua Mules
>> Coach Pat Silva and the 2019 McKinley Tigers
>> Coach Kili Watson and the 2019 Nanakuli Golden Hawks
>> Coach Tim Seaman and the 2019 Kaiser Cougars