The brain drain from Hawaii to the mainland may never end.
They know it well at Moanalua, where football coach Savai’i Eselu is taking a big step to the next level. After guiding Na Menehune on the gridiron for the past four years, including an 18-3 record in the past two seasons, Eselu will be announced as the new tight ends coach at San Diego State.
Moanalua will make an official statement once SDSU makes the hiring official. Moanalua players met with Eselu on Friday. Former players like senior slotback Rudy Kealohi found out through the grapevine.
“I heard about it around school. He told the players, the upcoming players for next year,” Kealohi said. “I’m actually happy for him because he’s a great coach. That’s what he deserves, a chance to help his family. He’s been working hard for our program.”
Kealohi was on the JV team during his first two years, then was a starter on varsity the past two.
“He told us to focus on our path and he would do anything to help us,” Kealohi said. “He could coach at any level. He’s inspirational. I wouldn’t have the work ethic I do if he didn’t inspire me to become a better player. He had a lot of challenges, but he stuck with it.”
Moanalua went 10-2 last season and won its first OIA Division I title, edging Leilehua 21-20 in double overtime for the championship. Na Menehune lost to eventual finalist ‘Iolani in the state tournament.
Eselu went 27-16 in four seasons as head coach of Na Menehune. His .680 winning percentage is the best out of any of the 10 head coaches in school history and his 27 wins trail only Arnold Martinez, who spent 11 seasons in charge.
Martinez led Moanalua to its only other league title in football — in Division II in 2009.
Eselu played tight end at Cal, where he graduated in 2011 with a degree in Sociology.