Wendell Say playing numbers game at Aiea

Aiea opens its 2018 football season Friday at Kaiser. Photo by Jay Metzger/Special to the Star-Advertiser.

Wendell Say feels fortunate that his Aiea football team’s game Friday night at Kaiser is a nonleague affair.

Otherwise, he would not be able to do what he is about to do.

Say is bringing the full JV squad of about 30 players up to suit up for the Kaiser varsity game. That’s because Na Alii’s varsity team would have fielded less about 18 players due to academic probation and injuries.

So instead of barely fielding a team, Aiea will have plenty of manpower for the varsity opener. Say said that about 34 of the approximately 50 varsity and JV players combined will see playing time.

The drawback, however, is that Na Alii will not field a team for the JV matchup.

Next weekend, when Aiea hosts Nanakuli, those JV players who moved up will be back down to JV. If the game against Kaiser was a league game, those players would not have been eligible to move up.

Eventually, Say is hoping Aiea will return to two full, healthy (and grade-eligible) teams — a bit less than 30 on the varsity and more than 30 on the JV.

Say said the team went into its preseason varsity scrimmages with 22 eligible players, and with four nursing injuries, the 18 remaining is bordering on not enough to play a game safely.

“Just trying to get the best scenario,” Say said. “This way, we didn’t have to cancel a varsity game. All of those JV kids who are capable fundamentally are going to get playing time. Safety is always an issue. We didn’t want our varsity players to play two games (vs. Kaiser and then vs. Nanakuli; before academic probation ends) low on numbers.”

Say decided against bringing up just some of the JV team instead of all of it. He didn’t want to send the JV team into the fray missing too many of its key players.

In past seasons, when Aiea had games against some of the top teams in the state such as Kahuku and Waianae, Say’s tendency was to bring many of the sophomores up to the varsity permanently. He’s not going to do that this year, and will instead let them develop at the lower level for the whole season. There are 18 Na Alii sophomores at the JV level.

Also in past seasons, some Aiea players showed up to the team on the first day of school, according to the coach. He’s expecting that to happen again this year (school begins next week) to help with long-term roster strength.

“But even though they come out late, they need one week of conditioning and one week of pads before they play,” he said. “What they need to know and do is you gotta come from the beginning. Sometimes kids think they can show up and play right away. When kids show up from the beginning, it builds team consistency and structure.”


  1. ??? August 2, 2018 9:36 pm

    A LOT of talented Aiea/Halawa kids have been transferring to other schools in recent years. Mililani’s state championship team had 3 All-State players from Aiea. Kaiser had an Aiea stud when Miano was there and last years QB is starting for Kapolei this year. IMHO they need a coaching change!

  2. Trustno1 August 2, 2018 10:55 pm

    ???- would they have been All State Players if they went to Aiea? I don’t think so! Kids transfer because their home town school cannot offer what other schools can’t. Mililani at the time had a great coaching staff! Again had… look at the team now… not to many transfers coming in because kids/parents know that the coaching staff is not what it used to be. Good luck in the season coach Say and the boys!

  3. Boolakanaka August 3, 2018 7:01 am

    Trust No1. They don’t have to be all-State to be talented and recruited. I played on an early 80s teams, where, including myself, we had no less than 9 guys play D1 on scholarship. Specifically, we had three guys start at the Pac10 at offensive line David Fonoti, Gaylord Kuamoo and Kose. I don’t think any of the power teams of that era, from Waianae to Punahou to Kaiser had three oline starters.

  4. Mahatma Gandhi August 3, 2018 8:03 am

    Boolokanaka, Radford should have done much better than they did back in the 1970s. They had the talent. They had plenty popolos back then. Homer Jones (BYU) was one. Not so many popolos at Radford now. Which had devastated their sports programs. I remember them and their popolos would dominate state track and field under Al Bader and basketball under Jim Alegre. I don’t know if Pearl Harbor is bringing is less military personnel to the islands or if the popolos choosing to stay on the mainland.
    Gaylord Kuamoo, Radford, first Santa Rosa JC then USC.
    Jerome Ingraham, Aiea, then Santa Rosa then UH football.

  5. Mahatma Gandhi August 3, 2018 8:09 am

    Keeping kids out cuz of grades. Can anyone here cite me one person who because of that rule buckled down, did his homework and it then turned out to make a real difference in his life?
    For good grades to make a difference, you got to graduate from Stanford, Cal Berkeley or the Ivy Leagues. Otherwise it’s about how you look that determines what kind of job you get. Just getting a C average at Aiea, instead of D’s, not gonna do anything for you. Playing big time football at places like Kahuku and UH gonna set you up in good career jobs like policeman, stevedore, Halawa prison guard and fireman. Got so many ex Kamehameha football players from their decade of football dominance in the 1970s that worked as stevedore. Mike Beazley too, 3 year starting QB at Waianae in the Prep Bowl winning years of the late 1980s.

  6. diamonds808 August 3, 2018 8:41 am

    I agree – maybe a coaching change is needed in Aiea. I attended games because my kid played in the band but watching the games got boring because even I knew what play was coming up! I’m an avid sports fan (not a coach or anything) and have watched great high school teams, but Aiea is so predictable – and this was from almost 10 years ago. Even back then, they had a lot of talented players but many times they could not shine when it was needed because of bad play calling.

  7. Bozo August 3, 2018 10:58 am

    if an athlete has skills, it don’t matter what school he plays at. Coaches recognize talent, potential. The musical chairs and shopping around by parents is hilarious! 5 Aiea kids catching the bus to Mililani everyday? no pride in area they live.

    Coach Say does a good job working with what he and his Staff has. people from the outside looking in, don’t know what’s going on within the program, school and neither do I as I’m just a observer of high school football. Plays are called based on game planning, personnel, probability of success, etc. What may seem as predictable to some, may be a game planned decision as the best way.

    I do know they do not recruit like several other OIA schools. Hats off to them for following the rules.

    Good Luck Aiea and Coach Say!

  8. Jay August 3, 2018 12:34 pm

    They need to fix the “WHY” are there so many injuries and academic casualties. Injuries…. maybe to some degree I can live with…. it is a physical game. But for academic… no excuses, I don’t buy that. These student athletes need to understand that they cant just do enough to get by to play a sport for a particular season. They need to keep it up the whole year… all year round. This kind of bad habit will or may carry over into their adulthood…. just get by. Need to teach our children to excel in whatever it is they need to do.
    Maybe there needs to be a progressive type of consequences for student athletes that habitually perform poorly in academics. Maybe then it’ll sink in their heads about buckling down and taking care of priorities. I would support this even for my own child.

  9. randyd August 3, 2018 6:31 pm

    Often times, coaches are only as good as the talent on the team. Coach Say is an excellent coach and, better still, is a great role model. He’s already proved that if he had a lot talented kids, he is capable of bringing a state championship to the community. To begin with, Aiea is an older community and there aren’t as much kids going there as the newer ones, such as, Ewa Beach, Kapolei, and Mililani. Not going to change, so people might as well get used to the same schools reaching the state tournament every year.

  10. ??? August 5, 2018 10:37 am

    @ Trustno1
    You saying Vavae Malepeai made all state cause he went to Mililani & not Aiea or Waialua?
    You’re an idiot. He would make all state at any school he’s that good. The school does not make you an all star, the player does!
    You talking about Mililani as if they suck now, their still a top 3 team so how you gonna say their staff is not the same when they only loss 2 games all year both in playoffs .
    No wonder you No Trustno1😂

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