It’s probably unfair to compare Makoa Freitas with Tony Dungy.
But so much of Freitas’ demeanor and countenance reminds just about anyone of the influence of Dungy, his former coach during those years with the Indianapolis Colts. There’s a fire and passion, but the gold is in the message. Freitas believes in authenticity, not because he says it, but because he lives it.
The first-year Kahuku head coach has led the Red Raiders to a 9-1 mark — 9-0 in league play — and a spot in the Oahu Interscholastic Association Division I football championship game. When the team in red meets Mililani on Saturday night, it’ll also be Freitas’ first go-round in a title game as a head coach. Freitas chatted with Hawaii Prep World on Wednesday.
HPW: I can’t help but ask you more questions about your time with the Colts and Tony Dungy. It seems like he has been the same person on air whether he was a coach or a TV analyst.
Freitas: What you see is exactly what you get. A good guy. Everything he preaches off the field he preaches on the field.
HPW: All the years he coached, and he actually left at a fairly young age.
Freitas: He told his wife, I’ll do it for so many years, and when he was done, he walked away. He’s a genuinely nice person. At meetings, he would pick a verse in the bible apply it to us, to help us be better fathers.
HPW: Talking with Rod York (of Mililani), he mentioned that Kahuku will play Kahuku football, how the defense comes at all angles.
Freitas: You control what you can control. You can’t control what other people think of you. You get your team ready and make sure they’re ready to play.
HPW: The development of the passing game, the balance, it’s come a long way, without losing that physicality on both sides.
Freitas: It’s the norm here. It’s the offensive and defensive lines. Our offensive line with Enokk Vimahi and the other guys, they’re the blue-collar guys. We do a little bit more, and it’s base. When you break it down, the foundation is still the same. It’s the same steps. The same concepts. Maybe a wrinkle here and there. We try to keep it simple, especially the O-lines. The things that linemen need to do.
HPW: The defensive line has been clobbering people from start to finish, really consistent. Some of them don’t get the same pub as the guys who finish plays like Miki Ah You.
Freitas: Everybody knows about Samson Reed. Samson Kapule-Si‘ilata, he does a lot. Feso Malufau. (Draeton) Longa Thompson. Bryce Beatty. Whoever they call on to step up, they step up. They’re the ones occupying double teams to let those ‘backers through. Matt Faga, our D-Line coach. I think he’s the best DL coach in the state. Him and Paipai Falemalu.
HPW: The bye last week for the OIA’s D-I championship-game teams, that’s something new. The rest is good, but there’s always the concern about losing momentum.
Freitas: It’s both, as a coach, I’d rather play it last week and get it over with. That’s me being antsy. We gave them some time off to focus on their studies.
HPW: Health-wise, everybody is OK?
Freitas: Everybody’s getting better and everybody should be good by Saturday.
HPW: I’m probably the only human being who keeps asking about Wes Alo-Maiava. I had to do a double take last game when he got a carry or two. He was so relevant in that first preseason scrimmage at Kamehameha.
Freitas: He’s back from his injuries. We need all hands on deck.
HPW: Another guy who popped up fairly recently is (slot receiver) Duke Heffernan.
Freitas: He had a good game against Campbell, the first time vs them was kind of his breakout game.The passing game is coming along great and I give our offensive coordinator (Faaesea Mailo) and our assistants all the credit. This is all his offense. He came with his offense and talks to the receiver coaches and RB coach, and we try some things and see if our players can or can’t do it. It’s been a group effort. You see all their hard work pay off. The O-line coach has the protections down. The passing game has come a long way.
HPW: It’s been very interesting to watch. I have to say, when Kahuku was in elephant or heavy mode the past couple of years, the power, the way it wore defenses down, the brute strength was incredible. One-dimensional, but effective.
Freitas: If you take a step back and look at it, in Vae (Tata)’s first year, we didn’t use receivers or a quarterback in the heavy set. Vae’s second year, we didn’t use them again because we were in heavy sets and didn’t really pass the ball. We’re basically using positions we haven’t used in the past couple years, to start from scratch like that last March, it’s a testament to the coaches and players. I don’t think we even completed a pass in the state championship game last year, so it’s a lot of hard work.
HPW: The mindset is entrenched, so changing minds is a big factor. But the transition has looked great to someone from outside like me.
Freitas: The athleticism is there, but it takes continuity and repetition to get a passing game. That’s just how it is. Look at Cal Lee. His first year, they didn’t win the ILH. It takes time to get used to the timing, running routes properly. Your side adjustments, your hot reads, third and long, adjust your route to get past the sticks. Your timing routes.
HPW: And still, you’re a coach who likes balance, who likes to establish the ground game.
Freitas: You don’t want to be a jack of all trades, master of none. Figure out what you do best, master it. Inside zone, outside zone, draw trap. Master the blocking.