On one side of the triangular matchup at the McKinley field last Saturday, you had a program having trouble putting enough players in uniform to participate.
And no, it wasn’t the McKinley Tigers. It was the Kaiser Cougars, who have taken the mantle from the Tigers as the team that could forfeit games on a week by week basis.
But it wasn’t so long ago that McKinley was in that exact same predicament. Before them, it was Anuenue, a school that no longer has a football program. Two seasons ago, the Tigers forfeited their final two games of the season under first-year coach Sam Cantiberos. Cantiberos and his team didn’t forfeit any games last season as the program began an upswing.
Now, with coach Pat Silva — a former McKinley quarterback — at the helm, the next step up is awaiting. Hopefully. Nothing is a given, especially in football.
The Tigers played well in the three-way (Kaiser, Aiea, McKinley) scrimmage on Saturday, and afterward, Silva talked about what’s happening with the program right now. He is trying to end a 24-game losing streak that dates back to a 36-15 win over Waipahu in the 2013 Oahu Interscholastic Association Division I playoffs.
“We just had camp and you know kids, they stay up late and make noises,” Silva said. “I told them that they would be running in the morning and sure enough, there they were, surprised, at 6 a.m. (on the day of the scrimmage) doing five 240s.”
Silva, a task master? Maybe. More like taking things seriously.
“In the scrimmage, it showed that our defense is where we want them to be. They’re going to be our heart and soul,” he said. “Our offense showed that there is still a lot of work to be done. The work that we’re looking at is more about everybody executing assignments and responsibilities. On every play (in the scrimmage), one or two kids broke down and that affected the play, whether it was dropping the ball … or downfield on a pass (by the opponent) and it turned into a touchdown. I like to think it’s fixable.
Silva talked about what he calls his “four horsemen” — seniors all around the same size that go both ways. They are Ezekiel Samuelu, Laulii Iosefa, Sioeli Lopes-Liutolo and Zephaniah Vulivalu. Aside from Vulivalu, who is 6 feet 2, they’re all around 5-11 and 220 to 230 pounds.
“Overall, for the team, it’s about focus and maintaining concentration,” Silva said. “Our system is different than what they’re used to — what we’re preaching and teaching, how we organize practice and what we expect and demand from them. These kid are so enjoyable to work with.”
Silva was the head coach at Roosevelt from 2009 to 2011 and was also the head coach at Castle in 1995 and 1996.
He is extremely proud of the Tigers’ new artificial turf field that opened in February. The field is for practice now until the work for a stadium and other infrastructure gets the green light.
“We’re fortunate to have a facility like this,” he said. “I played here with the old field, so when I see alumni come back, I open the gate for them. I say you are entitled to walking on this sacred ground and it’s chicken skin. You walk and you see that Tiger logo in the middle of the field, chicken skin.
“Talking about tradition, that is the biggest thing about being in a black and gold uniform. My job is to keep talking about that. We’ve had alumni come in and talk to them. The more we get alumni to come in and talk with the kids, the more they’ll have an idea.”
The Tigers open with a nonleague game against Pac-Five on Saturday at 6 p.m. at Farrington’s Skippa Diaz Stadium. McKinley opens its OIA Division II season Aug. 11 at Roosevelt.
SAY STARTING 27TH SEASON
Wendell Say is beginning his 27th season as the Aiea head coach and he was there guiding his troops in Saturday’s three-way scrimmage.
Although Say’s numbers problem at Aiea is not as drastic as it is at Kaiser and as it was recently at McKinley, it’s still an issue.
“Numbers is a problem not just at other schools, but ourselves, too,” Say said. “We need to be in better shape, so I was addressing them today about how conditioning is important. Now (due to playing in the scrimmage) they see it. A lot of kids gotta go two ways and gotta be in better shape. When you’re tired, you make mental mistakes that shouldn’t happen.
“It was our first real scrimmage. We don’t have the bodies so we can go against each other in practice a lot. Today was not bad. I saw a lot of good things and also a lot of mistakes. The kids are playing well together, bonding together, and defensively, we were moving to the ball well. But overall there were some sloppy fundamentals.”
Say said receivers Sam Okamoto, a three-year starter, and Babu Capanang were among the players who turned in solid performances in the scrimmage.
“We’ll be fine because you can only play 11 on the field,” Say said. “The 11 we put on field will be just as good as any team in the state.”
Na Alii will be scrimmaging on the road against Kailua on Friday before opening the OIA Division I season at home against Nanakuli on Aug. 12.