Year after year, the Pearl City Chargers play some of the most consistently successful football in the state. Much of that rooted in the expectations of Robin Kami and his staff. As the Chargers (7-2) prepared for their OIA Division II championship game with Waipahu (9-0) — kickoff at Aloha Stadium today is 6 p.m. — it was all about fundamentals.
Coach Kami chatted with Hawaii Prep World on Wednesday.
Pearl City football
HPW: A year ago, we saw a backup quarterback take over and lead the Chargers in a 21-7 win over Waipahu. That was such a balanced performance in every way, offense, defense and special teams, and Isaiah Asinsin didn’t seem rattled a bit.
Kami: Isaiah has done a great job moving from wide receiver to quarterback. He follows the game plan and doesn’t try to do too much. We just believe in the basic fundamentals. I really believe you’ve got to win two phases out of the three. If you do that, for that day, you could compete.
HPW: Let’s rewind and go week to week over your team’s OIA schedule. First game, Kalani and their dangerous playmaking quarterback, Seth Tina-Soborano. Pearl City wins in overtime, 22-16.
Kami: We knew we couldn’t stop him, just try to slow him down. Run the time down with our offense in our game plan. In the fourth quarter we were still winning, slowing down the game. He caught on fire the last two series to tie the game and we won in OT.
HPW: Roosevelt. Pearl City wins 42-0.
Kami: We know Roosevelt is always going to be a hard, tough game. We know they’re very physical and well coached.
HPW: Waialua. Chargers won 64-0.
Kami: Even though they have low enrollment, Waialua and us always have a really good game. We never take them lightly. Tavesi (Toia) is a great athlete, he can do wonders with his arm and feet. I give their coach (Lincoln Barit) credit for letting their kids play and develop for the following year.
HPW: Then came a 31-0 win over Kalaheo.
Kami: Kalaheo, it was a tough game, it was pretty close in the first half. Second half, they made some mistakes. The momentum took over after that. We try to keep every game close until the fourth quarter.
HPW: Big game against Kaimuki. Pearl City pulls it out 17-15.
Kami: The first time we played it was very scary. We know they’re big, strong, physical, can throw the ball and run the ball. Again, we just tried to slow the game down and take away one dimension, the run. Hopefully, wear and tear them into the fourth quarter because a lot of their guys play both ways.
HPW: Then it’s a showdown with Waipahu, game tied at 0-0 at the half. Then Pearl City wins 37-6.
Kami: It was a domino effect. Once they started… The next day, we watched video. Our defense played too long on the field. Our offense, 1-for-10 on third down, so we didn’t help our defense.
HPW: McKinley in the regular-season finale, a 42-0 win for Pearl City.
Kami: We played with the starters first, then we rotated everybody else. We have the skills at Pearl City, but I don’t know if we have depth in the trenches.
HPW: Numbers haven’t grown at Pearl City in ages.
Kami: We haven’t had new houses built in Pearl City since 1965.
HPW: Playoffs. Kaimuki. A 7-0 Chargers win.
Kami: The second time around it was hard because everyone knows each other’s tendencies. We would run the ball, work the clock down, again try to win two phases out of three. We didn’t expect to shut them out because the talent they have. That night I think the D-line did a great job of containing the double team. Kasey Kikuyama had 13 tackles. For that game, we moved him to LB.
HPW: The obvious headline guy on defense is Zion Tupuola-Fetui, who is 6-4 and 240 pounds with a whole lot of scholarship offers. But it’s the entire front seven that has been classic Pupule People Eaters.
Kami: Zion, Paulsson Solomon, Kobe Jackson, Ethan Costales-Paikai, and we rotate. Burky Aitavale.
HPW: The defense is always so well-prepared.
Kami: We watch film daily, one hour a day before practice.
HPW: Um, in an air-conditioned facility?
Kami: No, there’s no AC.
HPW: Back and forth on the video?
Kami: Yeah, we stop, we talk, we make adjustments. Having two weeks to prepare for Kaimuki helped a lot. Our second bye was a good time to heal up and prepare for them.
HPW: The kind of basic, unflinching football you and your staff have built as a foundation has been a success. But if the day comes when a bigger school comes calling, what happens?
Kami: I bleed purple no matter what. I will never leave where I’m at. I love the challenge and everything about Pearl City.
HPW: This is unusual, a Thursday game.
Kami: I’d rather play on the weekend. For the kids, they’ve got to go back to school. For the fans, too, they’ve got to go back to work. I think the fans will be there, the school spirit will be there, the whole Pearl City community will be there.
HPW: I’m guessing there might be a few wrinkles, but mostly basics in the game plan.
Kami: We’re going to stick with the same game plan. Waipahu’s offense is so explosive. We need to slow them down so they don’t score 40 points every game. Their defense is fast and physical. Everyone’s scored six or less points per game. Their defense doesn’t get recognized because the offense is so good.