GLORY DAYS: Coach Darren Hernandez and the 2019 Kapolei Hurricanes

Darren Hernandez walked on to the University of Hawaii football team. Photo courtesy Darren Hernandez.


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.

Darren Hernandez played high school football under Al Ontiveros at Campbell. Photo courtesy Darren Hernandez.

PART 26:


Darren Hernandez fell in love with football at age 7.

“I absolutely loved everything about the game,” he said about his time playing for the Ewa Beach Hurricanes in Pop Warner. “I was hooked.”

Hernandez, a 1982 Campbell graduate, was eventually part of head coach Al Ontiveros‘ 5-2 defense with the Sabers. He played both tackle and end.

“We weren’t very good at all, but I knew I wanted football to be a big part of my life,” he said.

Hernandez sure can check that box off now. The game has always been part of his life.

After graduation, Hernandez played for DeAnza Junior College (Cupertino, Calif.) and then came back to Hawaii as a walk-on at UH.

“Even though I wasn’t a starter, I drank it all in and knew I wanted to be involved for the rest of my life,” he said. “I have been beyond blessed to play and coach the sport I love.”

He admits his high school days were disappointing, though.

“I tore up a knee and broke my nose and missed some games,” he said. “There were no trainers, so we pretty much had to play through pain. But it taught me to persevere through tough times.”

Hernandez nearly transferred to Radford.

“As a senior at Campbell, our coach resigned right before the season amid a dispute with the AD and some players transferred,” he said. “My sister Paulette lived in Aliamanu and the plan was that I was going to live with her and her husband and attend Radford. I even set up a meeting with Radford head coach John Velasco. But at the last minute, I ended up staying at Campbell, where we went 1-7-1. Radford ended up winning the Prep Bowl and sadly, legendary coach Velasco passed away during the playoffs.”

At UH, Hernandez played under Dick Tomey in 1986 and for Bob Wagner as a senior in ’87.

“I played linebacker at UH on a stacked defense with some amazingly talented players like Al and Pete Noga, Colin Scotts, M.L. Johnson — all who played in the NFL — Dana Directo, Thad Jefferson and the late Nick Maafala. We had the first all-Polynesian offensive line in NCAA history in 1986 with Joe Onosai, Amosa Amosa, Charlie Moetului, Willie Kalakau and Moamoa Vaeao. Ken Niumatalolo (the current Navy head coach) and Garrett Gabriel were two of our quarterbacks. The late tight end Ron Hall was a stud who later played in the NFL. Those were some memorable times.”

Hernandez recalls going against some big-name dudes in his playing days.

“Waianae was the top team in the OIA where my good friend Kurt Gouveia was a two-way all-star,” he said. “In college, we played Michigan in the season finale of my junior year and Jim Harbaugh was the QB. That was cool.”

Pearl City was the place where Hernandez got his first coaching job.

“In 1985, after my time at DeAnza, I transferred to UH, but I was rehabbing a surgically repaired knee and redshirted,” he said. “I had to take a few more classes at Leeward to get my AA degree so I could transfer and I was offered the position of JV defensive coordinator on Joe O’Brien‘s Pearl City staff. He gave me a chance. I instantly knew right then that I wanted to coach. After two years at UH as a player, I moved to Connecticut, where I completed my teaching degree in preparation of my dream job of becoming a teacher and a coach. In 1992, Campbell offered me the JV head coaching job and I have been blessed to still be a head coach today.

“The greatest highlight and thrill that I enjoy is helping kids to go to college to continue their education. Nothing is more satisfying than that. Over the years, I have grown to realize that coaching football is more of a calling than an occupation. God has been so good to me and I am truly blessed and honored to have this amazing opportunity to lead young men and to shape lives.

After coaching at Campbell, Al Nagasako, the principal of the newly built Kapolei High School, was the one who brought Hernandez on board coaching the Hurricanes.

“I was given a tremendous opportunity by Al Nagasako,” Hernandez said. “He was a great guy who really loved all the kids and supported athletics.”

Hernandez and the Hurricanes are preparing for their second year in the difficult OIA-ILH interleague schedule.

“Last year, we were young and inexperienced at quarterback and at most skill positions so we struggled on offense and defense,” he said. “Our offensive and defensive lines played pretty well and they will be counted on a lot this year.

“On the field, we want to win the OIA and be in the final three in order to make it to states — that’s always the goal. Off the field, we strive to develop young men in four ways — physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. We teach a curriculum of character training that instructs them to be responsible sons and productive future husbands, fathers and community leaders. Football lasts for only a few years of your life, but the life lessons derived from it can last a lifetime.”

Kapolei’s De‘zhaun Stribling returns after leading the Hurricanes in receiving as a junior. Photo by Jay Metzger/Special to the Star-Advertiser.


>> 2018 record and finish: 3-7, 1-4 OIA Open

>> Head coach Darren Hernandez’s staff:
— Patrick Ena (defensive coordinator)
— Ricky Lumford (offensive coordinator)
— Brad Hewahewa (defensive analyst)
— Al Kaaihue (offensive analyst)
— Kevin Wilson (quarterbacks)
— Jeremiah Cockheran (receivers)
— Jordan Gibson (offensive line)
— Rob Atisanoe (offensive line)
— Pesefea Fiaseu (running backs)
— Mose Tuia (defensive line)
— Kawika Garner (defensive line)
— Gino Quinones (linebackers)
— Shaydon Akuna (linebackers)
— Elliott Helenihi (defensive backs)
— Mike Ioane (strength)
— Abbie Ioane (administrative assistant)
— Dorine Carter (administrative assistant)
— Sharnell Shove (administrative assistant)

>> Approximate varsity and JV numbers: 68 varsity, 70 JV

>> Honolulu Star-Advertiser All-State selections returning: Maceal Afaese (third-team DE)

>> Honolulu Star-Advertiser All-State selections lost to graduation: Julius Buelow (second-team OL); Peni Naulu (third-team LB)

>> Players with Division I FBS college offers: Macael Afaese, Sr., DL, 6-5 270; Matt Gututala, Sr., S, 6-0, 200; Dezhaun Stribling, Sr., REC, 6-2, 190; Zhen-Keith Sotelo, Jr., DL, 6-4, 272; Diamond Keli’ikipi, Jr., LB, 5-10, 215.

>> Among 2019 key returnees: Macael Afaese, Sr., DL, 6-5 270; Dezhaun Stribling, Sr., REC, 6-2, 190; Kahoolewa Emmsley, Sr., LB, 6-3, 225; Matt Gututala, Sr., S, 6-0, 200; Brenan Eva, Sr., C, 6-1, 250.

>> All-time state championships: None

>> All-time Prep Bowl (1973-1998) championships: None

>> All-time OIA championships: None

>> 2019 conference: OIA Open



Part 27: Coach Joe Wong and the 2019 Kailua Surfriders


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
>> Coach Darrell Poole and the 2019 Kalaheo Mustangs
>> Coach Kip Botelho and the 2019 Pac-Five Wolfpack


  1. coconut Wireless July 31, 2019 4:47 am

    all that talent out there, hopefully one of these seasons.

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