24th 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 DARRELL POOLE AND THE 2019 KALAHEO MUSTANGS
Darrell Poole was part of the Waianae football program as a running back during the Seariders’ heyday.
And, like all of the players from then until now, sheer appreciation is paid by Poole to the man who was responsible for leading the storied program: Larry Ginoza.
“The main guy was Larry Ginoza, period,” Poole said. “That was his program. Everybody respected that man. I played under his tutelage and he was an awesome coach.”
Poole also had other memorable mentors during his JV and varsity years. Al Beaver was his JV head coach. Leo Taaca, Gordon Aken, Harry Mitsui and Dick Englar were assistant coaches and so was Ken Maeda, who drew up the team’s dominating defense as the coordinator.
“We had one of the top defenses in the state every year,” Poole said.
Football for Poole, who graduated in 1976, started with the Waianae Tigers in Pop Warner.
“It’s still like that to this day,” he said. “Kids playing Pop Warner who want to live the dream of playing for the Waianae football team.”
Poole was not a starter, but he got plenty of playing time and carries due to the triple-option backfield that had lots of personnel rotating in.
“Look at the guys in front of me, my goodness,” he said. “We had so many running backs. One of the big guys there was Eliu Wilson.”
After the Seariders beat Saint Louis 6-0 behind quarterback Victor Humalon in the first Oahu Prep Bowl in 1973, the team shifted more to the triple option, according to Poole.
“Some of the (Waianae) coaches when I was in school went to Alabama to get some information about the triple option from Bear Bryant,” Poole said. “They incorporated it and my senior year we were averaging 500-something yards on the ground. We didn’t really have to pass, to be honest with you.”
Poole remembers Tom Tuinei and Peyton Sarono among his top teammates.
“You couldn’t miss Tom,” Poole said. “They used him as a tight end, but he was mostly a middle linebacker. Peyton was an all-star safety. Most of the guys on our team made all-star our senior year.”
A win over Kaiser is a major memory for Poole.
“Little did we know that was the beginning of the Lees,” he said. “Ron Lee was the head coach and Cal Lee was there as the defensive coordinator. We beat them 28-21 at Waianae. We ran for over 500 yards. We also gave up 500-something yards in the air. It’s amazing we pulled out that win. Coach Cal and them then went on to build that (Saint Louis Crusaders) dynasty.”
When he was a senior, Poole and the Seariders lost 20-14 in the 1975 Oahu Prep Bowl.
“Blane Gaison was the quarterback at that time for Kamehameha and Scott Chan, who runs Aloha Stadium, was the quarterback for Kaiser,” he said. “David Hughes (future NFL player) was a running back for Kamehameha. He was big-time in that Prep Bowl.”
Another huge win that Poole remembers was a 7-2 decision over Radford.
“They had the No. 1 defense and we ended up beating them in the playoffs to get to the Prep Bowl, if I remember correctly,” Poole said. “We always believed we deserved to be there. Radford had the total package at that time. They had a great running back and the defense was unreal. One guy, David Fontes, was a top linebacker they had. That win was really huge.
“We played Kahuku that year, too. They came to Waianae. As usual, it was a tough game and we ended up pulling out a win, 13-7. We still had some injuries, so I remember putting my 5 cents of running in.”
Poole remembers coach Ginoza preaching perfection.
“For example, one play I was running the ball and made a TD,” he said. “I came to the sideline and coach asked me what that was. I said it was a TD. He said that wasn’t a TD the way I ran it.
“My mentality was do the best I could as a player and contribute to my team and get in there and have fun. I wasn’t a juke-you-out player. If you were in front of me, I was going to run you over. That’s Waianae football.”
Poole went on to play football for the Marine Corps.
“They had 11-man football at Camp Pendleton and we played some other branches of service. Many of the officers on that team also played for the Naval Academy (college) team. Some players went to the NFL. I learned a lot there and it was a great experience.
“One Waianae guy, Jacob Unaite, played with me there. They thought we were from Texas when we tried out. I was the fullback and he was the running back and we were running over people. In high school, he was an All-State defensive back.”
In 1987, Poole began coaching in Pop Warner for the Kailua Mustangs. All six of his children attended Kalaheo High and graduated from there. Three of his sons were chosen as All-Stars in football and wrestling — Kalani, Jonah and Aka. His grandson, Makana Poole, was a recent standout linebacker at St. Francis, and his nephew, Rico Rosario, was a recent All-State running back at Waianae.
“When there was a slot open, I was asked to come into coach the (Kalaheo) JV program in 2005 or ’06,” Poole said.
He spent five years as the JV head coach — and in 2012, after Chris Mellor departed from his spot as the Mustangs’ varsity coach, Poole became the head man.
“When I was with the JV team, we went to the JV championship game twice and won it once,” he said. “My understanding is that was the first time Kalaheo won a football title. We went undefeated that year.”
In his first year as the varsity head coach, the Mustangs missed the playoffs by one game.
“After that year, to be honest, the logistics have drastically changed,” Poole said. “The community is older and we’re having a hard time getting kids out. The population is down. We used to have 1,200 students and right now it’s around 700. And there are a lot more girls than boys.
“We’re struggling a little bit. I think we have one of the best coaching staffs and they are all there for the kids and putting the best product on the field. We’ll compete, but the dream is still to win a title. It’s been a challenge and it’s a welcome challenge. Anybody can coach talent, but it’s about bringing the best out of all of them as athletes. I’m fortunate to have a staff that believes in the same thing.”
Kalaheo, at some point this season, may be holding the first home game in its history. The field was supposed to be ready before the season, but there are some issues, including a problem with drainage, that is causing a delay. The homecoming game against Pac-Five on Sept. 20 is the new target date, according to the coach.
“We got some wins and we were in every game last year, so those are big, positive strides,” Poole said. “We were solid defensively and had a lot of learning to do offensively. We were one game away from making the playoffs.
“We graduated a lot of seniors and have 13 returnees, but only four have experience as two-way starters. If things fall into place, we should be one of the contenders in the division. But there are three who I expect to be up at the top, Roosevelt, Pearl City and Kaimuki. Kaiser could be a sleeper as well. It will be pretty close among all the other teams. If we can steal wins from the Big 3, that will be a plus.”
2019 KALAHEO MUSTANGS AT A GLANCE
>> 2018 record and finish: 4-6, 3-4 OIA Division II
>> Head coach Darrell Poole’s staff:
— Wendell Domingo (co-offensive coordinator)
— Lihikai Domingo (co-offensive coordinator)
— Paa Kekuinui (offensive line)
— Mark Lehner (quarterbacks)
— Mike Matalolo (running backs)
— Alika Kalepodes (defensive coordinator)
— Jay Barbadillo (defensive backs)
— Ikaika Fonseca (defensive line)
>> Approximate varsity and JV numbers: 30 varsity, 20 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: None
>> Among 2019 key returnees: Jordan Neufeldt, Sr., TE/LB, 6-2, 200; Jackson Aber, Sr., OLB, 5-11, 170; Justis Davis-Fragas, Jr., DL/OL, 6-2, 240; Kepa Kaeka, Sr., OL/DLK, 6-3, 235; Sheldon Mejia, So., DB/slot, 5-6, 130.
>> All-time state championships: None
>> All-time Prep Bowl (1973-1998) championships: None
>> All-time OIA championships: None
>> 2019 conference: OIA Division II
COMING NEXT IN “GLORY DAYS”:
Part 25: Coach Kip Botelho and the Pac-Five Wolfpack
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
>> Coach Daniel Sanchez and the 2019 Farrington Governors
>> Coach Scott Melemai and the 2019 Kalani Falcons
>> Coach Lincoln Barit and the 2019 Waialua Bulldogs
>> Coach Savaii Eselu and the 2019 Moanalua Na Menehune
>> Coach Wendell Say and the 2019 Aiea Na Alii
>> Coach Sterling Carvalho and the 2019 Kahuku Red Raiders
>> Coach Abu Maafala and the 2019 Kamehameha Warriors
>> Coach Wendell Look and the 2019 ‘Iolani Raiders
>> Coach Robin Kami and the 2019 Pearl City Chargers
>> Coach Fred Salanoa and the 2019 Radford Rams
>> Coach Kui Kahooilihala and the 2019 Roosevelt Rough Riders
>> Coach Cal Lee and the 2019 Saint Louis Crusaders