20TH 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 ROBIN KAMI AND THE 2019 PEARL CITY CHARGERS
The chief of the Pearl City Chargers football program was a “Chief” a long time ago. That’s when Robin Kami played running back and defensive back for the Pacific Palisades Chiefs in flag football.
After that, he moved on to be a stater in JV and varsity football for two years each with the Pearl City Chargers.
“I depended on my speed because I wasn’t the biggest and had to outrun the big players,” said Kami, who also ran the 100 and 200 in track. “At the time, I could shake and bake people. Not any more.”
A 1983 Pearl City graduate, Kami played his junior season under coach Joe Francis, who made his own way as a player from Kamehameha to Oregon State to the Green Bay Packers behind Bart Starr and under coach Vince Lombardi.
As a senior, Kami’s coach was Sanford Obra.
“Both Joe and Sandy (Saint Louis) were all-star athletes in high school,” Kami said.
“I was fortunate to coach Joe’s son, Ikaika (Alama-Francis) in Pop Warner,” Kami said. “Ikaika was known at first for his basketball (Kalaheo and University of Hawaii), before he became a defensive end for UH and then the Detroit Lions. Nobody knows he played Pop Warner.”
Cajo Cabato Jr., one of Kami’s Pearl City teammates as a middle linebacker, is on Kami’s Chargers staff now. Another teammate, Doug Hire (a tackle), went on to play for Linfield and became an assistant coach there as well as an assistant athletic director.
Kawika Hallums, who also went into the coaching fraternity at various places, and Kamaki Alejado, were the Chargers quarterbacks on those teams.
“To be around the brotherhood in Pearl City (was important to me),” Kami said. “In those days, a lot of Pearl City kids went to private school.”
When asked to pick a highlight of his playing days, Kami hesitated.
“I guess my senior year when we played Kalani,” he said. “I had two TDs and 150 yards (in a 33-0 win). That was probably my greatest moment.”
Another memory is not as wonderful.
“I remember playing Waianae at Aloha Stadium and Kurt Gouveia (eventually a BYU and NFL star) trying to take my head off,” he said. “I was running up field and then I see him coming for me. I used my speed and ran out of bounds and (got to) live for the next down after a 12-yard gain.”
After high school, Kami went to Linfield as a redshirt and then ended up years later at Golden West College for the last two seasons of his eligibility in 1988 and ’89. He was a running back the first year and a defensive back the second year.
“In college, I liked defensive back better,” he said. “You can hit somebody instead of running away from people trying to hit me or knock me out. In high school, I preferred running back. You get the ball and make a TD and get the glory.
“We had a great defense in 1989 and we had some other Hawaii players on the team — Ron Fitzgerald from Pearl City at linebacker, Doug Vaioleti from Kahuku at defensive end, Keoni Simon of Saint Louis at defensive end and Wayne Lewis from Saint Louis at safety.
“For me as a DB, I felt nobody was going to beat me 1-on-1,” he said. “I had the attitude that nobody was going to get away from me. All the Hawaii guys playing had a great attitude. They were all friends and roommates.”
One time, Kami thought he was going to bring an interception home for a touchdown. Not quite.
“I had an interception but didn’t make it,” he said. “Got to the 5-yard line, I think.”
In 1992, Kami began coaching for Pearl City in Pop Warner and then took the JV head coaching job at Pearl City from 2006 to ’08. Mel Bicoy was the varsity head coach at the time.
“Mel was a great coach and I learned a lot from his organizational skills and leadership,” Kami said.
From 2009 to 2011, Kami was back to Pop Warner and then helped Hallums when he became Pearl City’s varsity coach in 2012.
“People know Kawika as a basketball All-Star at Pearl City and a UH player,” Kami said. “He also knows his football and is a great football coach, too. He made everyone accountable, just like what he does for his day job as a sergeant with HPD.”
Kami has been the Chargers’ head man since 2013.
He’s super proud of the emergence of and the accomplishments made by Jordan Ta’amu as a major college starting quarterback.
“Just getting Jordan Ta’amu out there, that’s one of the highlights for us,” Kami said. “He went to JC and now Ole Miss and he’s trying to get drafted in the NFL. Zion Tupuola-Fetui is another. He came from our high school to the Washington Huskies. They came from Division II (in high school) and got somewhere. We tell all the kids it’s not what division you play. If you concentrate on academics and are a good player, you can get there. Those two guys brought Pearl City back on the map.
“Jordan’s last year, we had just about every college’s scouts at our practices — from the Pac-12 to the SEC. They were calling me, coming to our school from all over the nation. Zion (who was heavily recruited as a senior) was also starting to get noticed at that time.
“It can be tough at Pearl City. No houses have been built there since 1965. It’s an old city and from generation to generation, somehow every four years, we have one diamond in the rough that comes out of Pearl City that everybody wants.”
Kami is looking for his 2019 team to give its best for 60 minutes every game.
“Last year, we did all right competitively,” he said. “We just didn’t finish in the fourth quarter. We played three and a half quarters.
This year, I’m hoping for all four quarters. We’ll also have to be good in two out of the three phases in every game. If we do that, we’ll be competitive this year. I was happy about last year. Any time you have a competitive team, you’re always happy.
“My philosophy as a coach is academics and attitude. If you take care of those two, being competitive on Friday and Saturday will be easy. We want to be in the top four in our division to make the playoffs. That’s our first goal. After that, we want to make it into the top two, which means we’ll automatically be in states.”
2019 PEARL CITY CHARGERS AT A GLANCE
>> 2018 record and finish: 7-4 (5-2 OIA Division II); Lost to Roosevelt 23-7 in OIA D-II semifinals.
>> Head coach Robin Kami’s staff:
— Cajo Cabato Jr. (defensive coordinator)
— Russell Cabato (quarterbacks)
— Beef Padilla (defensive line)
— Darryl anguay (running backs)
— Matt Utu (running backs)
— Tommy Ebanez (defensive line)
— Roland Mason (linebackers)
— John Sullivan (linebackers)
— John Kapau (defensive backs)
— Trevor Forsythe (offensive line)
— Jonah Anguay (defensive backs)
— Terrance Fields (special teams)
— Johnthan Kaina (wide receivers)
— Daphne Okunaga (kickers)
— Donald Fuata (equipment)
— Kama McKeague (wide receivers)
— Ryan Gilles (offensive line)
— Kendall Oshiro (equipment)
— Robin Puahala (JV head coach)
>> Approximate varsity and JV numbers: 50 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: None
>> Among 2019 key players: Gabriel Parrish, Sr., DB, 5-8, 150; Kody Kikuyama, Sr., LB, 5-9, 170; Makana Canyon, QB, Sr., 5-9, 160; Skylar Kaliikane-McMoore, Sr., OL, 6-3, 290; Brady Fa’auliuli, DL, Sr., 5-11, 250.
>> 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 21: Coach Fred Salanoa and the 2019 Radford Rams
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