13TH 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 SCOTT MELEMAI AND THE 2019 KALANI FALCONS
Scott Melemai is a Kalani Falcon who has not flown away.
He played his four years of football with the Falcons and didn’t waste any time to enter as a coach under Greg Taguchi within two years of graduating in 1998. He’s still there at the school on Kalanianaole Highway — now as the head coach.
Like most kids who play for four years, Melemai played two years of JV and two on the varsity.
“I remember us freshman year not winning a game,” he said. “Sophomore year we went 3-3 and then as a junior and senior we went 4-4 both times. Senior year, we lost by about six to Pearl City, by 7 to Mililani, by 1 to Nanakuli. And we beat Kaimuki, Kalaheo and Waialua. In the preseason, we beat Honokaa and lost to Kaiser. All the losses were close losses.”
Those .500 seasons were an accomplishment for the Falcons, who were accustomed to being near the bottom of the pack. Melemai was a nose guard on defense and a guard on offense.
“And when I was there, it was a really good experience, not only for me, but for my friends and everyone else who went through it. That’s the kind of experience we want to provide for all of our players now — that fellowship, camaraderie and commitment to the game and each other. That competitiveness to want to do better.”
Among the top players on the Falcons at the time of Melemai’s playing days were Alvin Tokunaga, Kapono Kamakawiwoole and Adam Treinin-Aea. The latter is a coach on the current Kalani squad.
“I remember the Kaimuki game was a good one,” Melemai said about his senior season. “They had big players. Roosevelt, those guys were good all around. Just the fact that I had the ability to play football and be with those coaches and in that atmosphere, it’s something I fell in love with. My coaches had a major impact on my life.
“For many years, Kalani was looked down as the doormat of football, but when we came through we had the pride.”
In more recent years, Melemai is proud to have been a coach with his stepsons on the team. Quarterback/linebacker Shane Ra (class of 2014), safety Brandon Gatewood (’15) and safety/linebacker Justin Gatewood (’18) have all been a part of recent Falcons teams.
“They all did well,” he said. “In fact, they did better than I did. I don’t tell them that, though. They had similar experiences to what I went through.”
And now, Ra is an assistant on his dad’s staff.
Melemai is going into his fourth year as Kalani’s head coach.
“It was 1999 or 2000 when I started coaching,” he said. “We went back to the school and the coaches asked us if we wanted to coach because we were always around. I got sucked in, I guess.”
Melemai was a defensive line coach until 2006 and then he went to Pop Warner for two years as an assistant. He was a defensive coordinator back up with the varsity for two years and then spent five years as the JV head coach before going back up to be the DC for a year. That was right before he was hired as the varsity head coach.
“When coach Ron and Cal Lee came to Kalani, that’s when I went down to take the JV program,” Melemai said. “I was able to learn a lot when they were here. I’ve also learned a lot from others who came along — Kanani Souza (former Kamehameha head coach) and George Lumpkin (former University of Hawaii assistant). Lumpkin is on Melemai’s staff now.
It was hard to get Melemai to talk about a particular highlight of his in high school, but it eventually came out.
“Beating Kaimuki, but I don’t really want that to be out there,” he said. “It hadn’t happened in 25 years. I have good friends at Kaumuki and I don’t want to make them feel bad.
“And I made second-team all-conference, that’s an accomplishment I made.”
Now, Melemai’s focus is on creating better people through football.
“And we want to help them get to college and further their opportunities,” he said. “We’re also about building relationships with everyone, the other coaches, the parents. There are a lot of good people.”
Melemai and the Falcons are out to improve on last year’s finish.
“Last year, we struggled a little bit,” he said. “We had a small senior class and a lot of underclassmen played a lot. We return a lot of kids and they’re working hard in the weight room, in school and in practice.
“It feels good this year already. The kids are buying into the program. One of our goals was to get kids in the offseason and during summer and having the whole team and not just a handful of guys — and we accomplished that. We’ve got 35 always here (this summer) and training and working on the field. The mind-set is more serious this year. We have a goal in mind and are working toward that goal. The maturity level has gotten better. Our goal is to be competitive every game and give ourselves a chance to come out successful in all aspects. Last year, we came up short in a lot of games, due partly to immaturity. The playoffs is always the goal, getting there and giving us a chance to make it to the championship game and states.”
2019 KALANI FALCONS AT A GLANCE
>> 2018 record and finish: 3-7 (2-5 OIA Division II)
>> Head coach Scott Melemai’s staff:
— Scott Melemai (offensive coordinator)
— Jarret Hew (offensive line)
— Ryan Oda (offensive line)
— Jason Fujioka (quarterbacks)
— Noah Brum (quarterbacks)
— Sean Soberano (wide receivers)
— Seth Tina Soberano (wide receivers)
— Adam Treinin-Aea (defensive coordinator, linebackers)
— Shane Ra (defensive coordinator, linebackers)
— Radford Dudoit (defensive backs)
— Chase Yoshimura (defensive line)
>> Approximate varsity and JV numbers: 45 varsity, 40 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: Nick Sakamoto, Sr., SS/LB/QB (6-1, 180); Rayce Manriki, Sr., FS, 5-9, 160; Jake Lee, Sr., SB/RB, 5-9, 160; Tim Ioane, Sr., OT, 6-3, 320; Nathaniel Balangitao, Sr., RB/DE, 6-1, 190.
>> 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 14: Coach Lincoln Barit and the 2019 Waialua Bulldogs
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