The voyage for this Viking ship will have a new coach at the helm.
Kaeo Drummondo has stepped down as Hilo football coach. Drummondo guided the Vikings five BIIF titles in five seasons, plus Division I state championships in 2017 and ’19. They were 48-10 (.828) under his watch. He had reportedly considered leaving two years ago to become an assistant coach at the junior college level. The timing was right at this moment.
“This was definitely not a decision that was made overnight. It was something that I took the time to work through because it was, and remains, a difficult decision to have made,” Drummondo said. “The relationships that have been built over the years are special and it’s tough knowing that the dynamics of those relationships are changing.”
He was an assistant coach under Dave Baldwin before being promoted five seasons ago. After winning the ’17 state crown, the ’18 squad reached the final. Then as a senior-heavy squad, Hilo rallied past ‘Iolani 20-17 on a last-second, 55-yard field goal by Keanu Keolanui in the title game.
The senior placekicker didn’t play as a junior, focusing on soccer, but Drummondo convinced him to give it a shot one more time. Hilo went 14-0 in Drummondo’s final year with the Viks. The seniors also included defensive tackle linebacker Kalen White, DB/LB Kainalu Lewis, receiver/defensive back Kilohana Haasenritter, offensive linemen Sione Holani and Kawika Lee-Hong, quarterback Kyan Miyasato, durable running back Lyle Silva, receivers Guyson Ogata, Kaimi Tiogangco and Kyler Aguiar, and defensive back/returner Elijah Apao.
Kamehameha coach Abu Ma‘afala confirmed that Drummondo will become the Warriors’ defensive coordinator.
“I’m excited to have Kaeo on board. We were high school teammates and I’ve known him for a long time. He built a successful program at Hilo centered on high integrity and character. He is very knowledgable when it comes to football, but more impressive is his passion to build young men and prepare them for the future,” Ma‘afala said. “That is what we look for when hiring coaches in our program, and he fits that. I’m pumped to get him back on the hill with the rest of our staff and get to work.”
Drummondo will get a chance to coach in the ILH while focusing on his first passion: defense.
“The move was influenced by a multitude of factors which include family, as well as a desire to continue my coaching journey with the opportunity to be back assisting at my alma mater, Kamehameha-Kapalama,” he said. “Coach Abu and I attended Kamehameha during the same time. He is a 2002 grad and I’m an ’03 grade. We’re working through the necessary process right now as I find my place in the program, but I’m looking forward to the opportunity of working with him as well as the student-athletes at Kamehameha,” Drummondo said.
Hilo’s hold on supremacy in the BIIF in recent years might be jeopardy, but Drummondo believes the right choice for the next coach is already in house.
“My hope is that it’s a familiar face so that the program can maintain continuity. Continuity in the staff as well as scheme and techniques being utilized will help the players through the transition period,” he said.
There is a certain mind-set when it comes to Hilo football. Success at a mid-sized school that draws talent from neighborhoods like Keaukaha is as roots football as it gets.
“There’s a lot that will be missed. The relationships that have been forged with players, coaches, booster and parent helpers, and many others in the community who have supported me and the program throughout the years. A lot of what was accomplished wouldn’t have been without the love, support and hard work of a lot of people who I’ll forever be grateful to and for,” Drummondo said. “Hilo is also very special to my family. It’s my wife’s alma mater and my kids grew up on that field. They have so many fond memories of both the practices and games, which makes it hard for them as well to close this chapter.”
The Vikings under Drummondo
2019: 14-0. Won BIIF. Def. Leilehua 19-9 (HHSAA semifinal, D-I). Def. ‘Iolani 20-17 (final).
2018: 9-2. Won BIIF. Def. Maui 35-24 (HHSAA semifinal, D-I). Lost to Waipahu 42-22 (final).
2017: 10-1. Won BIIF. Def. Maui 26-7 (HHSAA semifinal, D-I). Def. Damien 35-19 (final).
2016: 8-2. Won BIIF. Lost to Leilehua 26-25 (HHSAA quarterfinal, D-I).
2015: 7-5. Won BIIF. Lost to Mililani 62-18 (HHSAA quarterfinal, D-I).