THIRD IN A SERIES
Before coach David Tautofi arrived, Kaimuki football had some down years.
After three winning seasons in a row under the now fourth-year coach, it’s possible that the Bulldogs might be ready to turn the corner and get that elusive championship.
A bid for the OIA Division II title last year fell short in a 7-0 loss to Pearl City in the semifinals. One year earlier, it was a 19-14 semifinal loss to Waialua that ended Kaimuki’s season. In Tautofi’s first year, it all came to an end in a 7-0 loss to Lahainaluna in the first round of the state tournament.
Once again, getting past the Bulldogs this year is not expected to be easy. For any teams to do it, it’s probably a good idea that they come in to the game with an answer for Kaimuki left tackle Sama Pa’ama, a University of Washington commit.
“Sama is actually a young senior, meaning he should be in his junior year this year,” Tautofi said. “He’s going to be a 16-year-old senior. Sama will have a presence in the trenches that every team will have to somehow gameplan for and figure out. He has that X-factor in him where at any moment or in any game, he can be the game-breaker. He has matured each year, developing into a leader among his teammates, and his leadership and his example on the field goes a long way for his team.”
The Bulldogs have developed a hard-nosed style under Tautofi, with defense being ultra-important. Expect more of the same this year.
“Going into this season, our focus is really on executing our efforts 100 percent in all we do as a staff and as players,” the coach said. “It’s always been the little things that paint the bigger picture and if the bigger picture is for us to bring the title home, then we need to care about the little things and take care of those things. The rest will take care of itself.”
Some of the other Bulldogs being counted on to carry the responsibility of a leadership role are listed below, with Tautofi’s thoughts on them:
>> Hunter Malu, offensive line: “He has also been a solid anchor on the offensive line for us, opposite of Sama at right tackle. Two consecutive seasons being an all-conference selection, he brings much experience and confidence to a relatively young group on the line.”
>> Kaulana Kaluna, linebacker: “A first-team all-conference selection last season as a sophomore, he anchors our defense. Though he may be just a little undersized, he plays like a bigger player, making plays from sideline to sideline. He also brings much passion for the game as a leader and a captain. We are expecting big things from him this season as we are with everyone.”
>> Elijah Lemalu, wide receiver, linebacker: “Elijah also is a hard-nosed player who just plays with great intentions and is very sharp. He is also a captain on the team and we are looking for a big season from him.”
The Bulldogs are one of many Hawaii teams playing on the mainland this year. They meet Sierra Vista in Las Vegas on Sept. 7.
Kaimuki opens the highly anticipated OIA-ILH alliance on Aug. 10 against Kalani at Farrington’s Skippa Diaz Stadium.
“Last year, we were determined and ready to compete for a championship,” Tautofi said. “We started off strong with a big win over defending OIA D-II champion Waialua, but the season didn’t end the way we had hoped. We fell short again in the semifinals, but this time to Pearl City and it was a heart breaker for our boys and our fans. It’s never easy taking those losses, especially when you have to address your team knowing the outcome should have been different. But it eventually gave us much to learn this offseason and if there’s one motivator that is consistent, especially with a young team, it’s that feeling of disappointment and heartbreak they experienced the seasons before.
“This also goes for myself and my coaches. What we did take from last season is it gave us a glimpse of what the future could possibly be for us. Now going into this season, the key focus for us in the summer has been to take everything serious once we step on the field. Every little thing will add up, whether it is good or bad. But it’s the players that make that choice on what will add up in the end for them. Our seniors will be key to holding the team accountable to that. But we are nonetheless excited to get started with the season ahead.”
Next in series: Castle Knights.