Q&A: Hilo coach Kaeo Drummondo defends record win over Waiakea

Kaeo Drummondo returns to Hilo as its new athletic director. Photo by Craig T. Kojima/Star-Advertiser.

What can be said after a 104-0 football game?

When Hilo routed Waiakea by that score on Saturday afternoon, there was very little that could be said. The Vikings, dominant team in BIIF Division I for years, turned a plethora of turnovers into instant or near-instant touchdowns. Some of the takeaways gave Hilo the ball in the red zone. The Vikings led 83-0 by halftime.

Only then was the mercy-rule running clock implemented.

Like most leagues, the BIIF has gone to classification to increase competitiveness, to reduce blowout games. To increase morale, not reduce it. But there are events like this that have the unpredictable force of Mother Nature. Waiakea, as one of the larger enrollment schools on the Big Island, is in D-I with Hilo, Keaau, Kealakehe and new additions Konawaena and Honokaa. The new format has D-I teams playing each other twice in the regular season.

Lopsided Hilo wins aren’t unusual, but this one set a state record. With 9 minutes left in the first half, Hilo stopped throwing the ball. The Vikings had just nine offensive plays for the rest of the day, and all were run plays.

“I talked to the kids. It’s not something we’re proud of,” Hilo coach Kaeo Drummondo said.

Drummondo chatted with Hawaii Prep World on Tuesday morning.

HPW: I have to imagine, having seen my share of blowout games over the years, that no matter what you do, it piles up.

Drummondo: We have three goals each week. One, become better communicators. Two, play with more discipline. Three, improve on executing. The score got out of hand really quickly. We rotated in our second- and third-string players. I feel we did what was really necessary so the score wouldn’t get out of hand.

HPW: I remember hearing about a game in the 1980s when Konawaena beat Pahoa 84-0. Pahoa threw the ball on every down, clock kept stopping. Does the BIIF have a mercy rule?

Drummondo: We have the same one the rest of the state has. I asked if we could start running the clock at the start of the second quarter. It was 40-something to 0 early in the first quarter.

HPW: Woh.

Drummondo: It’s an unfortunate situation. We’re not taking pride in scoring that many points. No matter who our opponent is we’re not going to disrespect them.

HPW: I remember when everybody played everybody in the BIIF, way before there was Open and Division I and Division II. There were rare upsets by small schools, but most of the time it was sheer physical superiority and a major depth advantage.

Drummondo: This matchup, that had a huge role with how things unfolded and unraveled. This year compared to Waiakea there’s a physical disparity and that played a big role in it. They’re a young team, they don’t have big numbers. Maybe high 20s, or 30. We suited up 35, 36.

HPW: I’ve heard that your numbers aren’t the same.

Drummondo: Our numbers are a little bit down. That plays a role. Our backups in some positions are our starters in other positions. We put a freshman quarterback in. He basically played at least a half of football. From 9 minutes left in the second quarter on we ran nine plays, no passes. There were a lot of fumbles, and if our players weren’t scooping them up and running them in, we recovered inside the 20 or 10 a bunch of times. We thought about taking a knee in general, but that’s also perceived as being disrespectful. So the decision was made to run the ball, let the clock run, and let the game play out.

HPW: It’s tough to gain anything on either side in a game like this.

Drummondo: We had a good conversation with the players. This game is going to be remembered and talked about, we need to have class and humility. We did everything in our power not to run the score up. At this point, it’s the middle of the week and we have to turn our focus to our next game against Honokaa.

HPW: You’ve had so many good and great defenses over the years. It’s impossible to coach athletes in any sport to stop playing defense.

Drummondo: What the game means to me personally, we don’t approach it in a disrespectful way, we don’t approach our opponents in a disrespectful way. Everyone will perceive things a certain way because of the score. For a certain percentage of people, there’s nothing we can say to change their opinion. We told our players, don’t go on social media to try and change what they feel about the outcome. We have to give Honokaa the same respect.

HPW: Was there any discussion about starting the running clock before halftime?

Drummondo: The sooner we can get to the running clock in those situations, the better. What’s always talked about is safety. If the score is that out of hand, just run the clock. Less opportunity for players to get injured. The conversation was brought up at halftime, if the game was forfeited, it would be a 2-0 forfeit. The AD and principal of Waiakea had the same thoughts we did. The plan was to just run the clock except for injuries.

HPW: I’ve seen on rare occasions coaches and officials make joint decisions for the best of everyone.

Drummondo: The league should allow coaches to decide in the middle of a game if they want to run (the clock) earlier. A coach has a good feel for his team. They players all work hard and want to compete and success. Prolonging a game like that doesn’t do them or their psyche any good.

HPW: I know the BIIF goes far and beyond when it comes to sitting down and coming up with different options, thinking outside the box. But even with divisional formats, it’s hard to avoid this scenario. The avalanche effect is that some programs will lose numbers. Kids will avoid playing football because of blowouts like this.

Drummondo: I don’t know where the league goes from here. I know the three-tiered format was discussed before the season. With the scores being what they are, a similar situation maybe next year, that might be strongly considered. Maybe Konawaena, Kealakehe and Hilo play each other more. The current situation is not good for the game or the athletes.

HPW: In the past, I remember chatting with coaches in similar situations about mid-season inter-island matchups. When Cliff Walters was at Kealakehe, and later Sam Papalii, they were so dominant. Coach Cliff wanted a chance to play off-island during the season. And way, way back in the 1960s or so, Hilo actually played in the MIL.

Drummondo: Every league will do what’s right for its league. Lessen the amount of times we play or open up to other possibilities. A chance to play a team, for example, Lahainaluna, even in the middle of the season, that would be fun. During a bye week, go search for a game. The biggest thing is who will travel. You’ve got to fund-raise a lot. I don’t know what the answer is without being able to brainstorm. But even 70-0 or 60-0, that is not good. It’s a tough situation.

HPW: As a team, do you think this could become the best defense you’ve had? Are they on that track?

Drummondo: I think we have a collection of players, the potential is there. Honestly, on a day-by-day basis, just looking at the film without looking at the score, we’re still a far ways off still from being the best team we’ve had. Are we disciplined and lessening our unforced errors? We have a ways to go. Are players coming to practice excited about getting better? We have two to three months to become a better team. With the makeup of the schedule, we play everybody home and home, and we will play somebody three times. We want to be in a position where we don’t travel for the championship game.

HPW: There is a history in the BIIF of some programs forfeiting games to a dominant team rather than risk a huge loss and injuries. It seems like a real possibility in BIIF D-I now.

Drummondo: I don’t see or expect (forfeits) to happen where the coaches or admin will make that decision. What worries me is numbers island-wide, where teams sustain injuries in weeks 6-9, and always, academic probation.

HPW: I can’t help remembering when Waiakea struggled for years, and Tim Lino took over as coach and within two years, they had a championship run that lasted for four seasons during his watch. Do you think the program is at a point where it could potentially fold?

Drummondo: I wasn’t here when Coach Lino had his dynasty going. I hear a lot of stories. We have a lot of guys who played for Lino or coached under him. It’s still a prideful program. The state just invested millions of dollars in their stadium. They have great athletes at that program. I don’t see them folding.

HPW: The other factor is Waiakea is so good in baseball, a perennial Top 5 program that produces Major League draftees. They have Kalai Rosario and Safea Mauai, two Star-Advertiser Baseball All-State players back as seniors who also play football. Big guys with speed. Are they playing football this season?

Drummondo: The two baseball kids are not playing football. I know those two boys, they’re talented. We had the luxury in 2017 of just having (future MLB draftee) Micah Bello fall into our lap. He didn’t play football his freshman, sophomore, junior year and his parents allowed him to play football as a senior. The athleticism of a Division I baseball player, his ability to track balls, close distances, it was a luxury to have.

HPW: Kalai and Safea are arguably the two best athletes at Waiakea, period. That had to be a major loss.

Drummondo: Coming into this season with them as our crosstown rivals, I was looking forward to seeing them. If Waiakea has them, that’s two athletes at their disposal, that’s a huge void for them this year.

HPW: It’s a very daunting task, to train for baseball and still play football, especially in Hilo with the tradition, talent, coaching, work ethic.

Drummondo: I know for sure, Micah was the same way. There were certain days right when (football) practice was done, he literally had to be out and go to batting practice and take cuts. I know it’s a demanding sport, trying to juggle that with football, there’s so much on your plate. Early mornings, late nights, preparing for baseball. And you still have to do your academics. Micah made it work. He found the time early in the morning and late at night.

HPW: Where is Micah now?

Drummondo: I believe he’s in the rookie league for the Milwaukee Brewers.

HPW: Can’t blame athletes who have a good shot at making the pros and big leagues. To go from high school to getting paid professionally within a year, that’s unlike football and basketball.

Drummondo: Here on this island the last 10 years or so with Kolten and Kean Wong, Micah, and other players like the (Gehrig) Octavio boy (Waiakea), all good players who made good football players, all went to college. You can do both. It depends on where you prioritize your time.


  1. Monday quarterback September 10, 2019 4:15 pm

    When i hear rotate 3 rd string players in… i automatically think there are still starters in there. If thats the case, then Hilo should just run the scout team with zero starters in. Maybe play players in positions that they never played before. Give them some experience in new positions.

  2. Kate Wong September 10, 2019 6:12 pm

    I agree “Monday quarterback”. The coach should’ve been more creative. We all know what kind of character this individual has. Knowing how how to play football is not the “only” thing you need to know when coach student athletes. This position entails a hell of alot more than that.

  3. Robert Collias September 10, 2019 10:42 pm

    Coach Drummondo talks about a three-tiered system being discussed before the season. The BIIF had a three-tiered system with 8-man football played by the smallest schools for the last few years, an idea started in the MIL (now in it’s eighth official season, although what once was six teams — Kihei Charter, St. Anthony, Seabury Hall, Molokai, Lanai and Hana — is now down to just Hana, Lanai and Molokai).
    The eight-man game is perfect for the smaller schools — Lanai shared the MIL title with Molokai last season when it had 38 players on the roster when the high school had 130 or so students total. Molokai, a school of about 400 students, has the 11-man game on its mind with 48 players on the roster this season after having 51 last season. Hana usually has about 80 students in the high school grades.
    The Open division is cool and needed for the Saint Louises, Punahous and Kahukus of the state, but the HHSAA should consider sanctioning the 8-man game for the smallest of schools. OIA has schools that it would work for, the BIIF clearly does, the MIL obviously does, perhaps Island School on Kauai. I know the current rule to hold a state championship is that three leagues participate, but the HHSAA bypassed that rule for the Open Division (ILH and OIA only right now).

  4. Wainakea September 11, 2019 5:50 am

    @Robert Collias
    I do think 8-man was a great way for small schools to have programs, but as it kind of is on the mainland, it really only works for private schools if you look at it in the long run. Pahoa and Kohala was having issues even keeping the 8-man going as it didn’t spark enough interest in the kids. The numbers are up this year now that they have transitioned, though it might be a temporal one, it is kind of hard to have kids in schools like Pahoa and Kohala be interested in 8-man, unlike Lanai and Molokai, as they can actually transfer to say Keaau or Kealakehe which have bigger programs instead.

    While you could argue that the BIIF and the schools haven’t been promoting the sport enough, I think the fact that it was Pahoa, the only school that hasn’t won a 8-man BIIF title, was the one to start the motion to move to 11-man tells about the situation.

  5. hilorain September 11, 2019 9:38 am

    If HHS elected to not kick PATs, score would have been under 100. Just a thought.

  6. Frank Mauz September 11, 2019 10:16 am

    Interesting to read the interviews with coaches Azevedo and Drummondo. The BIIF has unique challenges in travel distances, enrollment disparities, scheduling and weather. It is encouraging to see everyone concerned trying hard to “make lemonade out of this lemon.” Kudos to all the coaches and ADs as they continue to make the safety and enjoyment of student athletes their highest priority.

  7. Falcon Future September 11, 2019 1:18 pm

    The score was 83-0 at halftime and the Hilo coach claims they were already holding back? How da heck is that even possible?

    Maybe the bigger question is what da heck is wrong with Waiakea? It sounds like their offense was fumbling on every other play and their defense couldn’t tackle anybody. If that’s true, there is some coaching issues going on.

    This is also a problem for the BIIF league. Why is Waiakea in D1? I’m completely amazed that two teams supposedly in the same division can be that far apart in talent. No make sense. Should Waiakea be in D2 or should Hilo go to Open?

  8. The Rim September 11, 2019 10:52 pm

    @Falcon I’ve been watching BIIF football for over 35 years, and I was at this game from start to finish. Waiakea contributed to at least 60 of those points through turnovers and by playing the most undisciplined defense and offense that I’ve ever seen. The score went from 34-0 to 83-0 in a blink of an eye, and that was all Waiakea’s doing. I would be the first to criticize Hilo if it was warranted, but in this case, the blame should go to the coaching. This is a team that has been outscored 200+-10. If it was Pahoa of Kohala or even Kau, I would jump all over Hilo. But this was Waiakea, one of the largest schools with decent talent.

  9. Wainakea September 12, 2019 2:28 am

    Waiakea is the 2nd largest school on the Big Island behind Kealakehe at 1200 students, bigger than Hilo which has around 1100. They have decent talent as they produce pro baseball players every other year. But they have been changing coaches every 2~4 years to no avail. Until 2014, Waiakea had a winning record over Hilo in over 30 years of playing each other every year.

  10. Falcon Future September 12, 2019 8:23 am

    @The Rim, thanks for the info. Yes, I suspected that Waiakea’s lack of coaching skills had a lot to do with the final score being 104-0. All of the history between the schools does not matter. A score of 104-0 should not be happening between two schools of this size in the same division. If this score happened in a ILH or OIA game, there would be big newspaper articles and parents would be writing letters to get both coaches fired.

    It is time for Waiakea to make some tough decisions.

  11. integrity September 16, 2019 8:30 pm

    Why would a school fire a coach that has done nothing but build an amazing football program and respect to the school and the community.Hilo Vikings football is nothing but well trained hard work and disciplined football program
    There should be nothing but absolute praise for their character
    Ignorance and jealousy will always be
    God bless the Hilo Vikings forever

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