Nanakuli’s Watson continues what brother started

Nanakuli's Joey Vea-Quitog dove to catch a pass against Farrington in a game last fall. New head coach Kili Watson will lead the Golden Hawks into their second straight season at the D-I level this year. Cindy Ellen Russell / Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
Nanakuli’s Joey Vea-Quitog dove to catch a pass against Farrington in a game last fall. New head coach Kili Watson will lead the Golden Hawks into their second straight season at the D-I level this year. Cindy Ellen Russell / Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Kili Watson is not that far removed from high school and now he is a high school football head coach.

Last month, Nanakuli announced a transfer of power, so to speak, from Keala Watson to his brother Kili to lead the Golden Hawks.

Unlike some other head coaching changes, this was not a big shakeup. As a matter of fact, Keala, a former standout for the University of Hawaii, still shows up to help whenever he can for the players’ informal offseason workouts.

No reason was given for the change and the Watson brothers would like that to remain private. It appears Keala has other things in his life to focus on, and it’s quite possible that he may return as head coach some day.

Kili (whose real name is Kieran) plans to continue building the program the way Keala did it — treating it like a rallying point for the tight-knit community.

“I’ve been (an assistant) with Keala from the beginning,” Kili said during a phone interview Thursday. “Right out of high school, it was a volunteer thing for me. Actually, I was helping during the spring of my senior year.”

Kili was a tight end at Kamehameha, where he graduated from in 2012. At that time, Keala was the JV coach before moving up to varsity for the 2013 season.

“Since we started, I’ve really bought into Keala’s mission of making change in the community,” Kili said. “That’s kind of what made coaching more satisfying for me. Beyond X’s and O’s, it’s mentoring our youth. Now I’m in the position of being head coach and it makes it a little more desirable. I plan to continue what he started.

“We have an offseason program and it’s been a smooth transition. We’re doing what we normally do. One difference this year is more of our boys are playing other sports. It has it’s pros and cons, but I think it’s more of a pro, more so with academics. It keeps them accountable.”

After being highly competitive in Oahu Interscholastic Association Division II, Nanakuli went 0-8 last season after moving up to D-I, where they will be again this season. The Golden Hawks were within two touchdowns in four of their eight losses.


  1. Mahatma Gandhi April 7, 2017 4:04 pm

    Hard to believe Nanakuli played in the 1983 Prep Bowl and damn near beat St Louis. Equally hard to believe: Pac-5 won the 1982 Prep Bowl.

  2. ??? April 8, 2017 6:06 pm

    Making a difference in the community will be awesome. Good luck coach

  3. nanakuli hawks April 11, 2017 8:13 am

    I hope things get better for the Hawks. Unfortunely i don’t see that happening. The talent is there, the kids want to play and succeed, but on the coaching and AD side, no support to encourage these young athletes to pursue college level football. So alot of them get discouraged and don’t even try. The petty politics of holding grudges needs to go away and really focus on buildiing a great football program.

  4. Education First April 11, 2017 12:26 pm

    Pac-5 also won the 1985 Prep Bowl with Garrett Gabriel, Pio Sagapolutele, Wade Thoemmes, Terrance Hempleman, Otis Johnson, George Smith, and many other really good players.

  5. Darkside April 12, 2017 10:45 am

    @nanakulihawks Do you coach?

  6. nanakuli hawks April 18, 2017 1:40 pm

    @Darkside, no but i know a lot of the kids that play on the team. I see the talent that is there, but it isn’t cultivated

  7. KapCityCanes April 19, 2017 9:25 pm

    What talent? No one could stop our QB last year. It took your whole defense to bring down our RBs. The real reason Nanakuli struggles is because every time someone tries to help u guys, u jealous nobody’s always shoot them down. You guys did the same to Apisa and Beaver. And now u guys lost Watson, the best thing u guys had in years! Come over to Kapolei Coach, we know how to give good coaches respect!

  8. nanakuli hawks April 20, 2017 8:19 am

    @kapcitycanes and you post has any relevence to what i was saying how? I never said we were a top tier team. we moved up from D2 to D1. we all knew we would have struggles. Kapolei is a very talented team. We do not have excepional telent at every position, but we do have talent on our team, esp. at the JV level. AGAIN, I’m not saying we have talent at every position, but we do have talent. Unless you were at the practices every day, you might not know what went on.

  9. KapCityCanes April 20, 2017 10:33 pm

    Incompetence at its finest. You say the “talent is there” then I ask in plain English “what talent?” Then u bash me and backpedal “were not a top tier team, we knew we would struggle” Well you guys definitely struggled so why u so upset with your coach if u already knew they would struggle? That’s ok, it don’t matter anyways, I just laugh because guys like you are the real reason Nanakuli will always be a bottom team. No disrespect to the program, I hear great things about the service they do, reminds me of old school football. But now it’s the 2000s and your fans gotta start buying in like how Kapolei backs Hernandez. June Jones loved our families, we fed him and gave him leis every game. Same for Darren and his staff. We don’t win every game but we still support him no matter what. Someone asked Tagovailoa Sr about sending his boys to Nanakuli, his alma mater, the reason he refused is because he had bad experiences with the people there and his boys would become targets by the very people who should be supporting them. Sounds about right, the way u guys bash your own coach. Come on Hawaiians. All Hawaiians no aloha.

  10. Nanakuli hawks April 23, 2017 9:44 am

    @kapcitycanes you are taking this personal. Chosen Morgan was a great talent for our varsity. Our qb for jv is a great talent. Our jv dline has great talent. Our starting lbs are good. Our strong safety for jv is good. Our Varsity qb is good. Butvwhem your head coach totally changes offensive scheme, from something that worked really well, to an offensive scheme that is usually run by pop warner and elementary teams that is,absolutely horrible for high school and ends up getting student athletes hurt. Then you have cause for concern. I was,at almost every practice this past season. Things,went on that were not good for those young men. I know several nankuli lids that play on kapolei, they didn’t want to play for nanakuli, go ask them why

  11. Nanakuli hawks April 23, 2017 9:48 am

    @KAPCITYCANES We havea difference of opinion on what’s going on with the nankuli program. I think it would best just to leave it at that. I dont hate them, i just think they could and should do more for our boys.

  12. KapCityCanes April 27, 2017 3:58 am

    It’s obvious that you’ve never coached before so I’ll give you a few pointers. A team with no wins will change schemes/ move personnel/ trick plays/ and do anything to change up their game in a desperate attempt to get a win. We’ve done it every year where we’ve had struggles. It’s a sign of awareness by our coaches that something isn’t working and to ignore it is a sign of stubborn pride. It takes a lot for a coach to admit his faults and use a game plan other than his original. Secondly, you’re entitled attitude is deplorable! You demand to be catered to like you’re some kind of football god. Try some humility. If you’re the expert that you claim to be, you should be coaching the team, calling the magic plays to beat everyone and turning all your kids into NFL prospects. You’re suggesting I ask kids (or lids?) why they don’t go Nanakuli? I just gave you the story about the Tagovailoas. I’m done with you already. Good luck next season. Next time you’ve got a comment, think it over so you don’t embarrass yourself. We play you guys at Nanakuli this year, I’ll bet I’ll hear you heckling your own team from the stands. SMH. Go Canes!

  13. nanakuli hawks April 27, 2017 5:34 pm

    @kapcitycanes so you coach for the jv or varsity for kapolei? also here is nanakulis record for the year before: 2015 record and finish: 7-3 (7-1 OIA D-II); lost 27-22 to Kaimuki in OIA D-II semifinals. They had a really good year, so that part of you comment is thrown out the window. I am not having an entitled attitude. I am giving my OPINION on what i witnessed this past season for the golden hawks. that’s all it is. Then you start commenting to me in a degrading manner. Chastising me for not being a coach and “giving me pointers” . You are just projecting who you really are onto me. You’re whole post is one of an entitled person. talking down to me and harping on my spelling errors. I wasn’t talking about the Tagovailoas, , They don’t even live in nanakuli. There are kids who actually went to nanakuli in the 8th grade and played for the intermediate team that transferred to kapolei for their freshman year. These Ad Hominem attacks towards me only goes to show your lack of reading comprehension. Just because I don’t “coach” does not mean I don’t know football. II will NEVER, NEVER heckle the student athletes!! they bust their butts and deserve praise!! WIN OR LOSE!!

  14. Key board warrior April 28, 2017 9:35 pm

    I love the way people know nothing yet talk like they know the coaches n the plan. Even mo bettah they go off wat other people say lol. You want to know get involved. You have an opinion say it to the person(coaches). If not don’t come on hea trying to sound smart like you know wat to do. Kapolei you are in even deeper trouble then Nanakuli. You guys have the second most student population and still can’t win the big one. You have a coach that had talent way back from Campbell and didn’t win the big one. Oh wait he send kids college lmao you show up 6’6,6’7,6’8 shit I would send kids college too lmao. You guys have people showing up for June jones and even he bailed lol and all ur good kids are rooted from some wea else not kapolei. Even the saber program send you guys good kids so get out of hea with your come kapolei for learn how coach. You guys not any better. Wats da difference between 2nd and last? Nothing cuz dey both lost lmao.

  15. Key board warrior April 28, 2017 9:48 pm

    And let me tell you all this. It takes a different kind of pride to stay home and win in your very own community. You can blame coaches n AD’s all you like. But it comes down too the parents n the kid how much they want it. If you feel going to another school n winning is the answer then go ahead. But don’t hide behind the education part. U might think u fooling people but it only proves you are trying to win. If thats wat u want to teach ur kid den so be it. If u want to say better opportunities then so be it. But I tell you this no matter wat you say. The people that stay at there home towns will look at you as a liar. No matter wat. You can say I don’t care wat people think well that’s usually the ones who cares the most.

  16. Key board warrior April 28, 2017 9:57 pm

    I hope kili Watson comes in and continues the life lessons they been teaching. I have faith in him because Keala Watson has faith in him to carry it on. I hope Nanakuli parents not all but most can change there ways to see that getting down on there kids also means love. These coaches don’t sacrifice there time or family just for the hell of it. They really have to love the kids n love wat dey do. If ANYBODY cannot understand wat I am saying. Then Nanakuli don’t need you. Go kapolei and lose cuz ur coach just doesn’t have it. But he can tell every other team wat dey should do for win lmao

  17. nanakuli hawks April 29, 2017 10:36 am

    @keyboardwarrior I hope kili watson can do that also. I wasn’t mad at the varsity’s 0-8 record. They were undersized and undermanned and yet never gave up!! I was a little more upset at the JV record just because they had oppertunities to win 2 games, the leilehua and castle games and in my opinion, the coaches didn’t coach to their fullest potential, which i know they can do. nanakuli had a great track record in d2. So i hope they continue to build the foundation and really push to get the student athletes to college level football.

  18. Darkside May 1, 2017 10:44 am

    @nanakulihawks It’s 2017 braddah gotta stop with the complaining and be apart of the cause. Help the Nanakuli “GOLDEN” Hawks and support them through the ups and downs. Stop complaining cause opinions mean nothing when you not in positions to bring change. Your last sentence “So I hope they continue to build the foundation and really push to get the student athletes to college level football.” This means nothing if you only complain. Support the boys/Ad/coaches because they all Nanakuli brah! They know the struggles, they been there. Also by saying building foundation? I hope you know who you talking to? These are the same coaches who lost to Kaiser on TV and got smashed! Everyone talked crap and put doubt into the program. The following year the same coaches lead the team to a Championship year in i don’t know how many years. So stop complaining and knit picking p.s you must be good at picking mangos? hahaha Just support the Golden Hawks. Be apart of the cause not the problem. Crabs in the bucket Hawaiian. Aloha!

  19. nanakuli hawks May 1, 2017 2:05 pm

    @darkside I always have! But when you see things that don’t make sense, i can’t sit back and let it go. It hurts me to see those young men put their heart and souls into a game they love and not get recognized for it. I was at all the JV games, I always have positive things to say our boys! I treat them as my own! so when i see the heartbreak in their faces it hurts me! During the Farrington game our JV boys were getting massively cheapshotted during the ending of the first half and all of the second half. IMO, the head coach wasn’t forceful enough to get on the refs to curb that! several kids end up getting concussions!!! Helmets ripped off! I will always support the Football boys, But will call out the coaches who supposed to have our boys best interests first and foremost whe ntey didn’t. I do think thats fair.

  20. Darkside May 1, 2017 3:11 pm

    Coaches need to model for these kids and going after refs is not the way to handle that situation. It could have been worst,a fight could have broke out involving players, parents, but the coaches kept their composure during the whole situation. Sad our boys were getting cheap shot left and right. To think that those coaches don’t have interest in the safety of the boys is just plain ignorant! From what I remember several parents came on the field concern for the safety of the kids. That game was a ticking time bomb waiting to happen. But the coaches kept their composure by calming the kids down and not swooping down to their level “Farrington”. That was a dirty game but as a coach you don’t need to aggravate the situations. Of course coaches were out raged by the events on the field! Coaches coach and refs officiate. But to think the coaches didn’t have interest in the players safety is plain ignorance!!!

  21. Darkside May 1, 2017 3:13 pm

    I’d say you go and coach Hawaiian.Maybe your different persecutive will help the coaches. We all Hawks! We gotta stick together as one. Aloha!

  22. nanakuli hawks May 1, 2017 4:21 pm

    @darkside yes they did! their boys were hurt pretty bad. The coaches didn’t have to attack the refs. But be firm in saying we will not tolerate this type of play and if this continues file a grievance with the OIA. against those refs!!

    Why does everyone come back to why don’t i coach? I’m not a coach for the reason is i have trouble speaking in layman terms. Can also have my thoughts come out convoluted. Which def. wouldn’t be good for the athletes. But by my being critical of some of the situation that I felt put the kids in bad spots, doesn’t mean they are horrible coaches. They are really good coaches, they put their heart and soul into what they do, but the doesn’t they should be immune from criticism or unflattering opinion. I will always wish the best for our boys!! they definitely deserve our support!

  23. Darkside May 3, 2017 11:36 am

    My point is…. If you have so much concern and passion for the boys the only way to put those words to action is by coaching. Put yourself in position to bring change. You said it yourself that you don’t see change happening with the coaches and AD taking the lead. Well braddah your story kinda changed now. Next time LAVA LINE! ALOHA!!!

  24. nanakuli hawks May 3, 2017 4:20 pm

    @darkside Where have the coaches and AD helped these young men pursue football at the next level? Are they actively helping them with making recruiting tapes? Do the coaches and AD active Encourage College scouts to come in and evaluate our boys? So when parents see something concerning them about the program are they not allowed to speak? Or can only speak if they take over the football program. Why is it if anyone speaks up, the default retort if you think you can do better coach? Or if you have concern, go coach?

    How about the the coaches take in the parents concerns and learn from them? We teach our student athletes that learning never stops? So why do the coaches get a pass on that? We tell our kids to take constructive criticism and learn from it? Why not the coaches?

    So my braddah, my story nevah change, maybe i needed to more thoroughly explain it and expand on what i was saying. So hopefully its more understandable now. Coaches and AD also need to learn and change things to get the program better. Not crap on concerned parents and hold grudges and vendettas and take it out the the players.


  25. RootedNotRecruited May 3, 2017 8:51 pm

    @nanakuki Hawks

    LOL!!! What makes you think that the AD & coaches staff for any sports of NHIS especially football, aren’t doing their delegent duties in strengthening the encouragement to our student athletes in getting to the next level? I agree, when parents have concerns, we have every right to call the coaches out on it IF we feel that our child is being treated unfairly, unsafely etc. EVERY parent wants the best for their children and a great parent will pave a road in making sure that they are sucessfull in whatever they decide to do because at the end of it, it becomes their journey, their life, their choices, not ours!!!

    Back in 2010-2011 when Keala Watson and his coaching staff decided to rebuild the Nanankuli football program our motto for that change was “Making a difference” regardless if that took hard disicipline to our student athletes, to receiving bashful comments from atheltes parents, to sacraficing the time with our own families to giving and providing to the boys that we were trying to bring up as independent mens, to teaching life long lessons that they can carry with them after highschool in the next level of “life” not only in “football”…. FOR any public schools; parents plays a big role in working harder than as if they attend a private school. We as parents are entitled in making sure that our child understands the resources that is provided to them and that the student/child learns to independently reach out, ask questions, and not be afraid in doing so. Because as parents what are we teaching our children if we allow ourselves to carry them their whole life. Life is all about winning and losing. But what we teach our football program is character and how to deal with adversity when life seems unfair. Every year the football program progressed especially in academics from starting at a 2.2 overall team GPA average to now sitting at a 3.0 overall team GPA. Every season student atheltes who has been apart of the football program under the direction of Keala Watson and his staff had started with at least 1% to now sitting at 12% students advancing to the next level in life, regardless if its hrough an academic scholarship, football scholarship in any D1 D2 Jc college and some of them decided to join the service. Then in the result of winning a championship title that echoed our valley louder than an NFL super bowl game? SO how are we not trying to strengthen our football program for our student athletes in preparing them to the next level? The coaches are only volentarily allowed to keep our students 3-4 hours a day for practices, us parents has the rest. And as parents your job is endless…And to be belittled that should a parent has a concern, you’re so quick to have valid reasons that us coaches will take it out on the kids?…LOL… TBH that could have been true if Coach Beaver was still here and i have valid reasons to prove that was the case back then, HOWEVER we are living in the future and our past doesnt defined what the next generations has to offer.

    @KapCity The tagavailoas are family to us LOL and to hear others opinions in justifying the reasons why he never allowed his sons to attend Nanakuli? lol only shows the kind of character you display for your athletes in the next city. OVERALL gentlemen when our student athletes reaches to the next level, they dont represent cities, highschools, towns, WE represent the 808 state, HAWAII. theres a bigger picture to high school football and because Nanakuli is always under estimated , WE the true supporters of Nanakuli tries our best to teach our children that the grass is never greener on the other side of the fence. You get your hands dirty and water where you stand because even after we’re dead, our kids grows a thicker skin and know how to survive the world we live in that we call life….

  26. wai'anaehammahsnopanties May 10, 2017 2:44 pm

    brah you guys like stay da kine but neva like do nothing against Wai’anae, we the real D1 hammas. Kapcity mudskippahs never nothing. Good luck dis year

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