Kalani Simpson


By Kalani Simpson

Livai can make us
laugh at the most
serious game of the year

HERE we are, at the press conference for the upcoming HHSAA/First Hawaiian Bank Football Classic.

Any questions?

Uh, yes. I'd like to ask Kahuku coach Siuaki Livai to talk about, oh, what the hell, anything.

This is going to be fun.

Yes, the Sept. 21 super event is going to have great football, too. Unbelievable football, top 10 football, the best two teams in California, Hawaii's top two high school programs. Kahuku against Long Beach Poly, the high school with the most alums in the NFL. St. Louis vs. De La Salle, a team that hasn't lost in 10 years.

This is as big as it gets.

But the tone set at yesterday's festivities -- the room was filled with cameras, writers, coaches, sponsors, pizza -- makes it even better.

This is going to be fun.

These coaches are great.

Livai of Kahuku, Raul Lara of Long Beach Poly, Terry Eidson (athletic director and assistant coach standing in for Bob Ladoceur) of De La Salle, Delbert Tengan of St. Louis started on tiptoes then took off with great leaps. At first they were cautious. At first they were coaches. At first they used words like "respect" and stressed "execution" and praised the other team's "excellent coaching staff."

But then they broke down and broke out. They had fun with it, they made us laugh. They were led, of course, by Livai, who would be a better guest than most of the people you see on the David Letterman or Conan O'Brien shows. He can score equally with the monologue or question and answer segments.

It was entertaining to watch the expressions on the faces of the other coaches while one talked. The best was Lara, the coach of the team that will play Kahuku. Lara seems like a loose, funny, fun-loving man. And yet even he was taken aback. When Livai delivered his best lines, Lara's eyes took us on a two-second journey: shock, delight, admiration.

As in, check out THIS guy!

Livai on facing an upcoming outstanding opponent: "Sometimes it is better for me to not watch the films."

Livai on his players asking about the similarity between themselves and Long Beach Poly: "Some of my boys said, 'Long Beach Poly, Coach, are they all Polynesian?' And I said, Yeah, they are. And they said, 'They live on the beach, you know, the Long Beach right there, are they along the beach just like us?' Yes they are. You know, they're beach warriors. The only thing is they're bigger, faster and stronger."

Livai on telling his team how many Long Beach Poly players have gone on to the NFL: "For us to have five or six, is like, wow! You know, and I said, 'They probably have about 100.' I really don't want to know the facts, but that's my estimation."

The room felt good, the way rooms do when they are filled with laughter.

Tengan, the new guy, is ready for prime time. He called HHSAA Executive Director Keith Amemiya "the next Don King of football promotions." He said, "Our kids are very, very excited about this game, and the reason why I know that is they ask me to look at film."

The zinger? "I'm very concerned of just the fact that Coach Ladoceur's not here. I'm sure he's practicing."

This is the way it should be with a wonderful interstate extravaganza like this. The enthusiasm high, the hits hard, the competition positive. Before the press conference kicked off I wrote "28,000" in the pool to guess the doubleheader's attendance. I will be wrong. With these four out front there will be many more there than that.

This is going to be fun.

I look forward hearing more from these four coaches heading into these games. I look forward to hearing Coach Livai speak more about, well, anything.

Kalani Simpson can be reached at

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