A quick scroll though the Kalani football engine tells us that the Falcons have not played a football game on the mainland since beating Earl Wooster High School in Reno, Nev., in 1974 with senior Craig Ogata starting at quarterback.
Four decades later under second-year head coach Scott Melemai, the Falcons are finally going back.
Kalani will play Mount Tahoma (Wash.) in Tacoma on Sept. 8. The T-Birds, who are coached by Roosevelt alum Ricky Daley, went 3-7 last year. Two years ago, they hosted eventual Division II state champion Radford and were blown out 74-6.
“He liked it when Radford went up there because he wanted his kids to see what playing against Hawaii kids was like,” Melemai said of Daley.
Melemai, who guided the Falcons to a 4-3 record last season, said he had two older sons who graduated from Kalani and traveled to the mainland with the basketball and baseball teams. When Melemai got the job as head football coach and realized he had a good group of juniors returning as seniors for the 2017 season, he thought it was a good time to try to pull off a mainland trip.
“I thought this might be a good opportunity because we have around 10 seniors who played as sophomores on the varsity and have been with the program for a while that they deserve a trip like this,” Melemai said. “We’re going to start the trip in Oregon and check out a bunch of schools that a lot of our kids end up attending and not just for football.”
Melemai has already lined up visits to Pacific University, Linfield, Puget Sound and Washington and is still hoping to add a couple more colleges to the list.
Kalani has enjoyed some success over the past six years since Ron Lee and Saint Louis head coach Cal Lee served as assistant coaches. The Falcons had seven winless seasons between 2001 and 2010 before reaching the OIA playoffs for the first time in both 2013 and ’14.
“A lot of the kids were very excited for this trip but as time went on it’s been kind of weird because at Kalani we’re trying to make this more of a football school, but some of the kids in our program are not really football kids and are hesitant to go on the trip,” Melemai said. “So we might carry a varsity team of around 50 kids but might only take about 35 on this trip.”
Melemai said the enrollment at Kalani has increased in recent years and he’s hoping to field a varsity team of roughly 50 players and a junior varsity squad anywhere between 40 and 60 players. He said roughly 20 to 30 kids have shown up to participate in spring workouts with another 30 or so currently busy playing other sports.
The Falcons will return two-year starter Seth Tina-Sobarano at quarterback. Tina-Sobarano threw for 1,342 yards and 11 touchdowns with only two picks last season and was also second on the team with 270 rushing yards and seven rushing TDs.
Kalani has won at least four games in OIA Division II in each of the last five seasons.
“Toward the end of last season was when we said we wanted to take this group to the mainland,” Melemai said. “The good part about this trip too is a lot of these schools that we’re visiting are schools kids try to visit and so this will help some families save money. We were able to make the prices for this trip not too expensive and I think because of it parents are willing to pay the price.”