As a three-year starting quarterback at Roosevelt from 1997-99, Chad Kapanui helped turn a team that went 0-9 in his sophomore season into a 7-3 squad as a senior.
Sixteen years later, the “Kapanui effect” has again resulted in a major turnaround of a high school program.
Nearing the 10-year mark of his tenure at Liberty High in Henderson, Nev., Kapanui has helped build the Patriots program into one of the best in the state of Nevada.
Now the offensive coordinator, Kapanui has overseen a team that has won five consecutive Sunrise Regional championships. Liberty hasn’t finished worse than 8-4 since 2008 after failing to win more than four games in its first six seasons since the program was created in 2003.
Kapanui arrived in 2006 and has benefited from a steady influx of players with Hawaii ties to create a winning culture at Liberty.
“It started from a young youth program with a lot of young Polynesian kids that when they came in and got older helped turn the whole program around,” Kapanui said. “I think that family atmosphere — the whole environment changed (and) the whole school changed — so I think that’s the reason we’re so successful as of right now. Of course it has to do with a lot of coaching but I think it’s more of that family atmosphere and that is what is drawing people to come to our school.”
Kapanui went on to play at UH for five years and as a senior, played under current Saint Louis coach Cal Lee, who was beginning his tenure as a UH assistant coaching the linebackers. Kapanui started six games at linebacker that season and now 11 years later, will coach against his former position coach on the same Aloha Stadium field Saturday night when the Patriots and Crusaders clash.
“We always joke around with that,” Kapanui said. “It’s awesome. When we grew up, we all wanted to beat Saint Louis. They were the team to beat and then I had the opportunity to play for him at the University of Hawaii and now I get to coach against him. My offense going against his defense — it’s going to be awesome. It’s a great opportunity for us. We’ve been talking about this game for awhile.”
Thirteen kids from Hawaii are listed on the Liberty roster and are eager to show their talents back home. But there’s also some pride being taken by some of the assistant coaches who didn’t play for Saint Louis and have a chance to knock off the program that dominated high school football back in most of their playing days.
“When I was young, I always wanted to be the team to beat Saint Louis,” Kapanui said. “Just to get the opportunity to get some of the kids we coach in Las Vegas to come here and experience where we came from and actually play a powerhouse team like Saint Louis, it’s a great opportunity for the kids and even for some of us coaches up here to be able to coach (in Hawaii) for the first time.”
Liberty has a dynamic player at quarterback in sophomore Kenyon Oblad, who has already received a Division I offer from Brigham Young. He won 10 games starting as a freshman and can run any type of offense.
“(Oblad) is special. He’s one of those kids that’s very intelligent,” Kapanui said. “We didn’t think he would be our starter last year, but he outright beat the quarterbacks we had and became our starter. He’s a coach on the field already as a sophomore. By the time he’s a senior I don’t have to be an offensive coordinator. He can run everything on his own.”
When asked about the type of offense people should expect to see, Kapanui says it’s a balanced approach that has allowed the Patriots to be successful.
“We run multiple offenses. We’re not just one-dimensional,” Kapanui said. “We can do it all and I think that’s why we’re one of the successful teams in Las Vegas. If we want to run the ball, we’ll run the ball. If we want to pass, we’ll pass. We’re 50-50 in the run-pass game and that’s the unique thing about our offense.”
Saturday night’s game against Saint Louis begins at 7:30 p.m. at Aloha Stadium and will be live blogged on HawaiiPrepWorld.com.