GLORY DAYS: Coach Kui Kahooilihala and the 2019 Roosevelt Rough Riders

Roosevelt coach Kui Kahooilihala led the Rough Riders to the OIA Division II title last year in his third season. Photo by Bruce Asato/Star-Advertiser.


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.

PART 22:


Organized football for Kui Kahooilihala began with the Punchbowl Aliis in Pop Warner.

From there, it was on to the Roosevelt JV and varsity, and he’s remained in Rough Riders country as a coach for a long, long time.

He was a linebacker in high school.

“Sophomore year, I got pulled up to the varsity,” he said. “Back then, it was kind of like a no care (no fear) mentality — go out and hit somebody. As linebackers, you go out there and you gotta pick up your team. Rah, rah. It was kind of intense.”

By his junior year, Kahooilihala played inside and outside linebacker and tight end. His teammates at linebacker included Jimmy Kalilimoku, who is coaching the ILBs for the Rough Riders now, and Joe Simeona.

Kalilimoku’s son, Chad Kalilimoku, also played linebacker at Roosevelt before going on to star at the University of Hawaii.

Some of Kahooilihala’s most memorable opponents included Nuu Faaola and the Noga (Niko, Pete and Al) brothers at Farrington, and Kaiser’s Ronny Peters, Ronny Kakuda (Kahooiliha’s cousin) and (quarterback) Cliff Kaneakala.

And the whole Kahuku team.

“Kahuku was the top dogs then and are still good now, so just beating them my senior year was a big thing for us back then,” Kahooilihala said. “We didn’t have big guys. We beat them (14-13 in 1981). They could easily have won if they made all their field goals. It was an off night for their kicker. He missed two or three. There were some really good players on that team — Lane Santiago, Clellan Aalona, Darren Johnson.”

About three or four years out of high school, Kahooilihala was asked to become an assistant by Roosevelt head coach Rodney Iwasaki.

“I came back to watch a game and we were talking after the game,” Kahooilihala said. “At first, I was like ‘ahh, we’ll see,’ but I ended up coming in and helping with the JV team. At first I came out just to see how the team was, but the next day I came out again. It rubbed off on me.”

After spending three or four years with the JV team, Kahooilihala went up to be part of Iwasaki’s varsity staff.

“He had me learning how to coach the defensive line and then I went to the offensive side and pretty much learned the receivers position,” he said. “Then I helped with the offensive line and the DBs. The only positions I didn’t coach was quarterbacks and running backs.”

After assisting Iwasaki and Roosevelt head coaches Lester Parrilla and Jeff Azuma who followed, Kahooilihala became the Rough Riders’ head man to start the 2016 season.

Last season, Kahooilihala and his Roosevelt squad found the promised land, winning the OIA Division II championship.

“Last year was a big thing,” he said. “Not only for me, but also for the school and the program. It was a relief and the kids now understand what it’s going to take to win it all (again). It’s all hard work and these guys are putting it in and dedicating their summers to the program, to the team and to each other to get to to where they want — to the top.

“Our pass league and offseason workouts with coach Jon Kahooilihala (nephew) and Justin Otaguro, who runs our speed and quickness, have been strong,” he said. “These kids have been with these coaches 24/7 and we can all say that the success comes from all the work they’re putting in. We’re seeing the results.”

This season will only be tougher, since the Rough Riders have become a yearly contender and now the team to beat as the defending champions.

“For our kids, learning how to play with each other and just being one is really important,” he said. “Getting everybody on the same page, practicing together, playing together, that’s how we are going to move as a team and a program. We set goals and take baby steps. We’re still climbing that mountain to get to the top (of the league and possibly the state). A lot of guys are trying to knock us off and they’re coming after us. We want to put in the work and be consistent in what we do. Finish, just finish.

“Our mistakes and mental breakdowns, all of those things, come with inconsistency. Everybody needs to listen to what we’re doing as far as schemes and communication. If you don’t know what you’re doing, please ask questions. And we tell the captains and the players to be accountable for your actions. For sure, the kids want to get back to the top and win the title again and they know it’s going to take hard work. Everybody knows that. It’s not going to come easy.”

The Roosevelt Rough Riders celebrated their 28-18 win over the Kaimuki Bulldogs to win the OIA D-II championship last year. Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell/Star-Advertiser.


>> 2018 record and finish: 12-2 (6-1 OIA Division II); Beat Pearl City 23-7 in OIA D-II semifinals; Defeated Kaimuki 28-18 in OIA D-II title game; Beat Pac-Five 20-7 in first round of HHSAA D-II tournament; Lost to Lahainaluna 48-10 in HHSAA D-II semifinals.

>> Head coach Kui Kahooilihala’s staff:
— Jon Kahooilihala (defensive coordinator, defensive line)
— Anthony Monteilh (offensive coordinator)
— Lowen Kahooilihala (quarterbacks)
— Arnold Morgado (running backs)
— Justin Otaguro (receivers, slotbacks)
— Layton Kaleikau (receivers, slotbacks)
— Randall Chung (offensive line)
— Clem Enoka (offensive line)
— Jimmy Kalilimoku (linebackers)
— Dominic Kaaihue (linebackers)
— Blake Harano (defensive backs)
— Alvin Maikui (defensive backs)

>> Approximate varsity and JV numbers: 54 varsity, 48 JV

>> Honolulu Star-Advertiser All-State selections returning: None

>> Honolulu Star-Advertiser All-State selections lost to graduation: Mason Morishige (third-team PK)

>> Players with Division I FBS college offers: None

>> Among 2019 key players: Sky Ogata, Sr., QB, 5-9, 160; Aalona Monteilh, Sr., DB/WR, 6-0, 170; Adam Soares, Sr., OL, 6-2, 255; Isaac Kaleikau, Sr. FS/WR, 5-11, 170; Shepherd Kekahuna Sr., OLB/slot, 5-9, 180; Mitchell Camacho, Sr., RB, 5-6, 135; Myka Kukahiwa, Sr., RB, 5-10, 170.

>> All-time state championships: None

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

>> All-time OIA championships: 1 (D-II, 2018)

>> All-time ILH championships: 4 (all D-I — 1943, 1955, 1956, 1957)

>> 2019 conference: OIA Division II



Part 23: Coach Cal Lee and the 2019 Saint Louis Crusaders


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


  1. Riders808 July 24, 2019 5:56 pm

    All the way Roosevelt!

  2. Luana July 25, 2019 12:44 pm

    Hats off to the Roosevelt Rough Riders and Coach Kui as you begin another exciting football season defending your well earned OIA 2 Championship for 2018- my son Marcus Hee was a part of t his special team! Everyone’s hard work on and off the field as evidence in this article will translate into BIG wins this season especially the top prize : STATE CHAMPIONSHIP!! Good luck Rough Riders!

  3. Mahatma Gandhi July 25, 2019 2:32 pm

    Yeah, no Div 1 recruits, because St Louis is stealing Roosevelt’s best players. I remember when Roosevelt used to ab an ILH power under football coach Ticky Vasconcellos.

  4. HLI July 29, 2019 10:56 am

    Went to the Roos v Puns scrimmage the other day.

    There was an incident where a Roosevelt coach was yelling and cursing at a Pun player during the scrimmage. A grown ass man.

    I am sure this kid said something that he shouldnt have said to the coach, but, cmon, you a grown ass man, a supposed role model for the kids.

    Needles to say the scrimmage was ended with 2 minutes left because it got too chippy.

    Apparently, its not the first time there has been an incident with this coach.

    Cmon Head Coach get your house in order.

    Plus, you have this coach, apparently the father of a St. Francis transfer (not all dad’s can coach on the same team as their son, just fyi) who is yelling at every position on every play. Us parents couldnt figure out what position he was coaching, we guessed offense, because he was carrying one football the entire scrimmage, ENTIRE scrimmage. We dubbed him as the Ball Yeller Guy (BYG).

    The astounding thing is that Roosevelt has a lot of talent on the team. It would be a shame for them not too reach their potential because they lack discipline, talking about the coaches I mentioned. Just for the record, this doesnt apply to all the coaching staff, the rest of the coaches were just fine. (or did anything that we noticed) . Its just those two Clowns.

  5. HLI goon August 14, 2019 3:37 pm

    Talk about entitlement HLI. The Roosevelt coach was yelling at the kid to go back to his sideline. He is a grown adult, so are you. Instead of hiding behind your keyboard why not bring all this up to them while you were there? Cuz your soft

  6. April September 7, 2019 5:34 am

    I think the coaches of Roosevelt Roughriders are doing a fr__ken great job! Awesome JOB! COACHES!

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