Many tributes were paid to the late Tommy Heffernan Sr., who passed away on Tuesday, at Kahuku on Friday night.
A shrine with pictures of Heffernan was placed outside of the Red Raiders’ locker room along with a chair that had his clothing on it, including a Vietnam War Veteran hat. Junior varsity and varsity players gathered and prayed there before and after their games. A moment of silence was also held before the varsity game.
It was all a representation of a loss that was clearly felt in the community, of a man who has been a constant in the program. Known affectionately by Uncle Tommy to those he came across, Heffernan was a quarterback for Kahuku during his prep days and graduated in 1967. He began coaching at the school in 1972 and also held administrative positions.
Duke Heffernan, a senior on this year’s Kahuku team, walked out with the rest of the Heffernan contingent for the coin toss in what he called a “heart-touching” moment after the game.
The No. 5 Red Raiders were victorious 33-13 over Kapolei on Friday night, thanks to a pair of touchdowns and extra points by Heffernan.
“It’s an emotional roller-coaster for us this year. We miss Uncle Tommy. We love and respect him. Not just our team, but the whole community,” Kahuku coach Sterling Carvalho said. “To get this win and for his grandson to score twice on his behalf was a sight to see tonight.”
Heffernan’s first score of the game came on a direct snap for a 3-yard rushing touchdown with 10:56 to go in the second quarter, and his extra point tied the game up at 7.
His second score came on a 2-yard rush with 1:33 left in the game that put the game out of reach. He also caught five passes for 26 yards.
“It’s been pretty rough,” he said of the past few days, understandably. “But I took it as motivation to push through adversity when it gets hard. I haven’t really put up any points in the past couple of games, maybe just extra points.
“It felt great, like my hard work paid off.”
That work was a product of lessons learned from his grandfather.
When news came of the passing of Tommy Heffernan Sr. on Tuesday, the team was initially set to take the day off. But Duke and the rest of the Heffernan family wasn’t having it.
“Knowing my papa, if he was here right now and he saw all of us crying, he would tell us to shut up,” Duke said. “He would tell us to ‘be quiet and get your guys’ butts on the field, get to practice.’
“The day he died, we weren’t gonna practice but I made sure everybody practiced that day because we had to prepare for Kapolei.”
The rest of the family showed up on Tuesday, too. Tommy Heffernan was known as someone who took immense care and pride in Kahuku’s facilities and history. That was clear to those he left behind, who wanted to continue his legacy immediately.
“Not just Duke was here the same day, but his whole family was here mowing the field, taking care of everything and the facilities,” Carvalho said. “It just shows that they’re still gonna carry on Uncle Tommy’s work.
“They’re still honoring what he loves, which is the boys, the community and this football program. For them to carry on in his name, it shows that they respect Uncle Tommy in that way.”
After the win over the Hurricanes, Kahuku enters the OIA playoffs as the 3 seed and will take on No. 2 seed Campbell at Ewa Beach in a rematch of a 28-27 nail-biting loss on Oct. 6 next weekend.
“We play a team that beat us right at the end. We’re looking forward to that rematch,” Carvalho said. “It’ll be a great game. I know coach (Darren Johnson) is a great coach. He’ll have his boys ready. We’re expecting a great battle coming up next week.”
“We’ve been getting closer,” Duke Heffernan added. “We started off as separated individuals but we got closer and we play as one now.”