19TH 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 WENDELL LOOK AND THE 2019 ‘IOLANI RAIDERS
Wendell Look is a Manoa boy. And he is also an ‘Iolani man.
On top of that, he feels lucky to be able to try to do his best making his own footprint in the footsteps of the school’s legends — Father Kenneth Bray and Eddie Hamada.
When you look at how he got to be the ‘Iolani head coach and a Raiders athletic director, you can kind of see that he was a chosen one. That’s not to say that he is something superhuman or mystical. No. But he was gently guided by his mentors to do jobs — sometimes humdrum ones at that — to see what kind of flower he would produce.
Some kids when given a small chance may have balked or fled. Look stuck it out.
“Weeding the field, sweeping up, doing the rubbish, cleaning the gym.”
That’s how Look described his athletic duties right out of college at ‘Iolani. He was under Hamada, who learned his athletic/educational teaching skills from Bray.
“Being in the right place and being lucky,” Look said. “Every year in college, I would come back and help out with the summer fun program. That’s how I kept in contact with ‘Iolani and Coach Hamada. After I graduated from Boise State, I came back and he asked me what I was going to do. I didn’t know. Maybe I would go back to Boise and start working up there. But he offered me a job and said, ‘You’re going to stay here, coach here and start working here.’
“It’s not like now where you have to go through interviews. I had a 13-year interview process. That first job was as a substitute teacher for $19,000 a year and I was the highest paid maintenance guy around. It got my foot in the door. That was the 1983 season. I never left. He was sending me the message to do the manual, menial jobs. You’re a college graduate and you’re thinking you’re going to change the world. He kept me humble so I could remember what it takes to get to where you want to go — and that’s hard work. No job is too small to get done. I look back on it now and that’s what he was trying to do.”
Look played all of his youth sports in Manoa. He didn’t play Pop Warner, but he did participate with the Manoa Paniolos in flag football.
“My mom didn’t let me play Pop Warner,” he said.
Look became a defensive end/outside linebacker type in intermediate school with the Raiders. That was with a five-man line, when the ends were like the linebackers of today.
“There was no run and shoot and all of that,” he said. “The ‘I’ back, the full-house set, the power run game. We threw the ball 20 times a game. That was normal then. The pro set. I played a little running back, but was more of a defensive guy.”
Look also played in the barefoot leagues prior to high school, where he had speed and shiftiness.
“But when I put the pads on, all of a sudden, I became a lineman,” he added.
His love and admiration for Hamada runs deep.
“It doesn’t get any more legendary than him,” Look said. “He was very influential on me and for everyone who played for him.”
There were some other memorable coaches who helped shape Look: Larry Cundiff, Charlie Kaaihue, Willie Keola, David Yamashiro, Elroy Chong and Earl Hedani.
“Probably the toughest coach we had was Sam (Steamboat) Mokuahi, who was a pro wrestler back in the old Civic Center. He was also a legendary beach boy. He was one tough son of a gun. We ran and ran and ran and ran and hit and hit and hit and hit.
“That was the coaching tree. They all came from and it all started with Father Bray. Masa Yonamine, Merv Lopes, Larry Ginoza and Hugh Yoshida, all those guys are part of that tree.
“And Coach Hamada, everybody loved him because of the kind of person he was. He had the biggest heart that I knew, treated everyone with respect or love, didn’t matter who you were. That’s kind of that one-team philosophy. He lived that philosophy. That’s kind of the challenge — to understand it and also live it.
“He demanded a lot, He was a tough coach, You had to do things the right way. Discipline was the utmost priority for him, playing the game right, with great sportsmanship and integrity. If you didn’t do it right, he would make you do it again. Over and over again, he ran plays until you got it right. We were not big, but we played hard all the time, we played smart and we played fair. You do those things and winning on the scoreboard would happen as a result of those things. I didn’t want to let my coaches down. We played our asses off for him and each other. He got us to believe that we could compete against anybody.”
Among Look’s high school football highlights is a win over Waianae.
“We went to Waianae my junior year,” he said. “It was a Larry Ginoza team. Waianae was the premier program in the state. We went out there and played ’em at night and all those stories about going out there and here’s this ‘Iolani team and we beat them out there. We walked in to a potluck with them and the players were looking at us (saying), ‘Man, these Oriental Asian guys beat us. These small, little guys.’ That’s who we were. Hopefully, that’s something the players who I’ve coached have carried on. Mental toughness.”
‘Iolani center Scott Tokunaga, guard George Apduhan and tackle Harry Oda were All-State selections back then. Twins Keith and Kevin Sasaki were the defensive backs, who Look described as “quick, athletic and 135 pounds.”
Armand Chong, a quarterback and wide receiver then, is on the ‘Iolani coaching staff under Look now.
Look was an All-ILH pick as a senior.
“If you look at that group picked as all-league, you’ve got future Division I guys and some guys that got pro looks,” he said.
Look recalls Blane Gaison, the current ILH executive director, as among ‘Iolani’s tough individual rivals at the time. Gaison played quarterback and defensive back for Kamehameha and the University of Hawaii. Others in that category are David Hughes (Kamehameha, Boise State, Seattle Seahawks, Pittsburgh Steelers fullback), and Kani Kauahi (12-year NFL center after playing for Kamehameha and UH).
There are others.
“Keith Ah Yuen, a huge Kamehameha lineman, used to abuse me on the line,” Look said. “I also played against Darryl Gabriel (Punahou, UH quarterback), Herman Clark (Punahou All-State lineman), Wayne Apuna (Saint Louis’ 1978 All-State player of the year who played tight end and on the defensive line) and John Kamana (Punahou running back).”
Look wanted to play baseball in college, but Boise State dropped the program when he got there.
“I was a roommate with Kelly Sur (current Radford athletic director),” he said. “We did student teaching and coaching as part of the PE program. That was my first formal coaching opportunity, a junior high team up there.”
Prior to becoming head coach at ‘Iolani in 1991, Look spent eight seasons as an assistant. He learned a lot of the offensive side of things through Dan Morrison, who was an ‘Iolani offensive coordinator.
Look also learned from Don James, who was the University of Washington coach back in the day, and Jim Lambright, a Huskies assistant.
“We would go up and watch Washington’s spring practice,” Look said. “They made time for us to sit down and pick their brains. They were really accommodating.”
That coaching relationship started thanks to Al Tufono, a former ‘Iolani player who went to UW to play for James.
Developing relationships with people in the football fraternity is one of the things that keeps Look going strong.
“The relationships that you have with the players,” he said, when asked what his top highlight is as a coach. “They recycle every year, but that has been the motivating force behind all of this. I’ve been at it for a while and have worked with some great kids and coaches. The kids at ‘Iolani have been so special. They are the ones that drive me. My staff has stayed pretty much intact. That is another huge part. And ‘Iolani School is a special place. The things we learned from Coach Hamada, it’s not only my responsibility. Everybody on my staff that played for him perpetuates those values and things he taught us — to keep that ‘Iolani School one-team philosophy alive and living and breathing and ongoing. It’s a special place and that’s not to say we are better than anyone else.
“If I had played in college, life would have turned out differently,” he said. “I might not be an ‘Iolani coach. You gotta be lucky to be given this opportunity.”
Eddie Hamada changed the course of Wendell Look’s life and Look has succeeded in his ambassadorship of the Father Bray-endorsed culture.
Look is about to begin his 28th season as the Raiders’ head coach.
“The interleague schedule last year was really exciting,” he said. “It pumped a lot of energy into not only the teams, but the fans also. We’re going into the second year of it and I’m excited to see if we can try to be consistent to stay on this (Division I) level.
“Obviously, any time you don’t win the championship, there’s a little bit of disappointment throughout the program. But I thought we competed well in 2018. And every week of playing different teams and traveling to different sites, it was a success in that sense. The kids were enthused to take that different challenge on and experience playing different teams.
“This season, we’re looking forward to it. It’s a whole new group. That’s kind of the beauty of high school football. You don’t have guys that are always going to be there. It’s always changing. It’s always fun to try and mold the team together. The seniors now were once sophomores and they have evolved and stepped up the ladder in terms of seniority and leadership and it’s nice to see how they mature and grow throughout the years in our program.
“Everybody is going into this wanting to win the championship,” he said. “That’s everybody’s goal, whether you’re in Pop Warner, flag football, whatever. That’s what you set out for and you want to be the best at what you’re doing. But that’s the ultimate goal. That’s the end of the road. The fun part is the everyday process you do in order to reach that goal. That’s what makes this game and athletics and our profession what it is — you never know from one day to the next how it’s going to pan out.”
2019 ‘IOLANI RAIDERS AT A GLANCE
>> 2018 record and finish: 8-3 (7-1 ILH Division I); Lost to Waipahu 20-19 in the HHSAA D-I semifinals.
>> Head coach Wendell Look’s staff:
— Myles Arakawa (kickers, special teams)
— Armand Chong (receivers)
— Sam Cropsey (offensive Coordinator, running backs)
— Joel Lane (offensive Coordinator, quarterbacks)
— Kevin Manuel (defensive line)
— Kela Marciel (defensive backs)
— Tonee Suetsugu (receivers)
— DJ Tano (offensive line)
— Delbert Tengan (defensive coordinator, defensive backs)
— Malo Torres (linebackers)
— Dom Ahuna (strength and conditioning)
>> Approximate varsity and intermediate numbers: 45 varsity, 35 intermediate
>> Honolulu Star-Advertiser All-State selections returning: Carter Kamana (third-team WR)
>> Honolulu Star-Advertiser All-State selections lost to graduation: Kaua Nishigaya (second-team RB); Mika Makekau (second-team PK)
>> Players with Division I FBS college offers: None
>> Among 2019 key returnees: Micah Camat, Sr., FS, 6-1, 180; Jonah Chong, Sr., QB, 5-11, 165; Carter Kamana, Sr., WR, 6-1, 185; Lanakila Pei, Sr., DB/LB, 5-10, 175; Kilo Scanlan, Sr., OL, 6-3, 210.
>> All-time state championships: (all in D-II — 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014)
>> All-time Prep Bowl (1973-1998) championships: 1 co-title (1980, with Waianae)
>> All-time ILH championships: 17 (6 in D-I — 1939, 1940, 1950, 1968, 1972, 1980; 11 in D-II — 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014)
>> 2019 conference: ILH Division I
COMING NEXT IN “GLORY DAYS”:
Part 20: Coach Robin Kami and the 2019 Pearl City Chargers
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