Manuel Douglas has been head coach at Narbonne since 2002, guiding the Gauchos to seven City titles.
In 2016, the Los Angeles Rams honored him by naming him prep coach of the year. Douglas got a free trip to the Pro Bowl — in Orlando.
“I was so disappointed it wasn’t in Hawaii,” he said.
He also teaches special education at Narbonne, and his wife is also a teacher at the school. His career path would’ve gone through law school, but he at that point in his life, the timing wasn’t right.
“I was burnt out on school,” he said.
Douglas wound up substitute teaching, then joining the coaching staff at his alma mater, and not long after, his path ventured to Narbonne, an inner-city school in Los Angeles.
The Gauchos, 2-2 in nonconference play, are ranked No. 19 in California by MaxPreps and will play Saint Louis at Aloha Stadium on Saturday, 6 p.m. Coach Douglas chatted with Hawaii Prep World on Wednesday, before his team boarded an early Thursday morning flight.
Hawaii Prep World: Thank you, Coach, for your time during a busy stretch. You and your staff have done a lot of work at Narbonne over the years.
Douglas: We’ve had a lot of success against tough competition, but we’ve got a lot of inexperience this year. Three new starters on our offensive line. We’ve been moving some guys around. It’s not week five that I’m worried about. We’ve got a long season ahead. We played 15 games last year.
HPW: Coach Cal Lee said he’s seen the mobility of your quarterback and also said your running back is a good one. Who else does your team rely on?
Douglas: Our front seven is very strong. Our defense is solid, but they can’t be on the field for 88 plays like they were (against Centennial last week). Centennial is a very good team and they can compete with anyone. We haven’t been beaten like that since 2010. I think they’d be a great matchup with Saint Louis.
HPW: The process of fundraising for a football team must’ve been a big challenge.
Douglas: The kids had to pay a little bit, and we did some fundraising and we had some donations. Many of the kids have never had the chance to travel to Hawaii. I’ve been there 25 times with my family. It’s a great experience. Last year, we drove to San Diego for a game. The year before, we had a seven-year drive to Sacramento.
HPW: When does your team arrive in Honolulu?
Douglas: We leave early Thursday. Coaches meet at 4 a.m., the kids meet at 4:30 and our flight is at 8:30 a.m. Some of our guys are excited about staying up late, but we’re going to have a 9 p.m. or check and wake up early in the morning.
HPW: What’s your take on Saint Louis?
Douglas: Punahou beat Serra, and we played Serra. Then Punahou got so easily handled by Saint Louis. I know Saint Louis has size and great coaching. We’re very privileged that they’d play us. In LA, we challenge ourselves. Carson is in our (Marine) League and Kamehameha beat them. The kids always need a new challenge. The last time we traveled to Hawaii was 2005. We lost to Kahuku 19-7. The boys will get to play in Aloha Stadium, which is cool. We’ve played in the (Los Angeles Memorial) Coliseum for championship games.