Pearl City determined to stay gripped near top

Slotback Tala Moeone, right, is a veteran returnee for Pearl City in 2015. Bruce Asato / Star-Advertiser
Slotback Tala Moeone, right, is a veteran returnee for Pearl City in 2015. Bruce Asato / Star-Advertiser.


Two seasons ago, in Robin Kami’s first game as the Pearl City football head coach, the Chargers got rolled 42-7 by Kapolei.

It was a bleak beginning, but things worked out and Pearl City eventually finished second in the OIA Division II tournament.

Beginner’s luck? No. Kami proved his positive impact on the Chargers’ program again in 2014, when his team nearly won the league D-II crown but lost a heartbreaking 37-36 decision in overtime to Nanakuli.

This spring, summer and fall will be Kami’s biggest test, and he acknowledges that fact readily.

Most of the big names from last season are gone to graduation, including quarterback Jordan Taamu, running back/slotback Dominic Maneafaiga and defensive lineman Jackson Fuamatu.

“We have two defensive starters and one offensive starter returning,” Kami said during a spring practice session on Thursday. “We have a lot of other veterans returning, but they didn’t start.”

To replace that many starters will be difficult.

“The other positions are not filled yet and are wide open,” he added. “We have 10 days of spring ball and I’m hoping some of them will step up and take charge. As coaches, we will be earning our paychecks.”

Kami said many of the players are just getting back in the swing of things after playing spring sports. By the fall, he expects about 50 varsity players and another 50 on the JV.

“We encourage all of our athletes to play two or three sports,” he said. “It keeps them out of trouble and keeps them in shape.”

Junior offensive lineman Jason Pong, junior free safety Robert Yamasaki and senior two-way player Alosina Toomalatai are the veteran returnees.

“We lost a lot of impact players,” Pong said. “But we’re looking good so far. We lose a lot of players every year. Last year was the same thing. We knew we had to rebuild and we know it now. We have talent and potential and we can take it far like last year.”

Toomalatai has experience as a defensive end and running back, and Kami is not sure where he will play in 2015.

“I’ll play any position to help out the team,” Toomalatai said. “We just gotta work hard at what we do, execute what we work on in practice, work hard in the weight room and see the results.

“Our goals are pretty simple. We gotta work as a team and make sure we’re not playing as individuals. (As veterans), we have to help our teammates and let them know the right way to do things. We have a lot of new people.”

Toomalatai is happy to be back on the football field.

“I was really missing it and it’s feeling good to just be doing something other than staying home and eating,” he said.

Pong feels much of that same bliss.

“Football is the only sport I play in and we went a long stretch without football, so it feels great to be back,” he said.

One of Kami’s goals is to make it into the top four of the OIA D-II regular season and the playoff berth that comes with it.

“We’ve been working on basic fundamentals, and especially bonding,” the coach said. “The JV and varsity practice together so the varsity players can teach and the JV players can use them as a guide.

“The last two senior classes set the example and the players on this team have bought in and we’re hoping the momentum continues for these players. Another good thing is that when they move from JV to varsity, the system doesn’t change, so they are already familiar with what we do.”

What the Chargers have done the past two seasons is compete intensely for the D-II league title before suffering close losses (13-7 to Kauai High and 30-22 to Kapaa) in D-II state tournament first-round games.

There are a lot of question marks for 2015, and the all-important question with the season a few months away is a two-pronged one: How badly do the Chargers want to get over the championship hump and do they have enough talent and leadership to do it?

Previously in the series on spring football practices —

PART 1 >> KAHUKU, May 18 practice:

PART 2 >> ‘IOLANI, May 19 practice:

PART 3 >> PUNAHOU, May 22 practice:

PART 4 MILILANI, May 26 practice:

PART 5 KAISER, May 27 practice:

PART 6 CAMPBELL, June 1 practice:

PART 7 NANAKULI, June 2 practice:


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