Kalaheo head football coach Tony Tuioti, front, has a staff of young assistants helping him in his first season. Behind him, left to right, are Chris Riccardi, Yaphet Warren, Craig Stutzmann, Thero Mitchell, Wai Sallas and Alapai Andrews.

A season for
growing up,
growing pains

Young coaches cutting their
teeth in OIA White Division

Last Friday was a day for debuts in the Tuioti household.

Just hours after his wife gave birth to the couple's third child, Tony Tuioti led the Kalaheo Mustangs onto the field for the first time as a head football coach.

Young Taylor Tuioti's introduction to the world went a tad better than his dad's first game as Kalaheo's head man: The Mustangs lost to Pearl City 41-0 in a nonleague game. But the disappointment of the loss couldn't overshadow the joy of welcoming a new child and the excitement of embarking on his coaching career.

"It was a pretty hectic day there," Tony Tuioti said. "To have your first football game ready to go as a coach and have a blessing of a baby come your way that morning, you can't ask for too much more than that."

Tuioti and his assistants are active participants in Kalaheo's practices. Here, he works with one of his players.

As Tuioti and his wife, Keala, raise a young family, he is also enduring the growing pains inherent in implementing his system into the Kalaheo program. But he isn't alone in trying to build a program from the ground up.

Tuioti, who completed his playing career as a defensive tackle at the University of Hawaii in 1999, is among four new coaches in the Oahu Interscholastic Association White Conference this season, and is part of an influx of young coaches entering the field.

At 26, Tuioti isn't even the youngest head coach in the conference this season. That distinction goes to 25-year-old Radford coach Fred Salanoa.

David Maeva is only in his second season as head coach at Kaiser, but already feels like part of the old guard.

"In coaching, I'm just one year older than them," Maeva said. "Chronologically, I'm way older than them. I'm 'Uncle' to them."

Moanalua's Arnold Martinez, a former junior college coach, moved from Northern California to take over the Menehunes program and Waialua's Lincoln Barit accepted the varsity coaching job with the Bulldogs after three years at the junior varsity level. Greg Taguchi coached at Kalani from 1994 to 1998 and returns to lead the Falcons this season.

The flood of fresh faces into the conference creates another challenge for veteran coaches like Aiea's Wendell Say and Kapolei's Darren Hernandez, who will spend the season getting to know their new opponents' tendencies.

"I told our coaches we're going to have to do a lot more scouting this year," Say said. "Everybody's new except for Darren (Hernandez) and he's changing up his offense. And David (Maeva) is only in his second year."

When he took over at Kalaheo, Tuioti assembled a staff of former UH teammates even younger than himself. Yaphet Warren, who finished playing in 1999, is among the staff's senior members. Offensive coordinator Craig Stutzmann, defensive coordinator Jacob Espiau and assistants Karman Saulsberry and Chris Riccardi last played for the Warriors two years ago. Alapai Andrews, Matt Wright and Thero Mitchell completed their college careers last year.

"The biggest adjustment is just to know that you have no control over what's happening out there on that football field," Tuioti said. "In practice sometimes coaches will jump in there and run routes and try to give the kids a visual picture of what it looks like and what kind of things we want to see. ... That's something I think the kids enjoy seeing. They want to see the coaches have a passion and love for the game of football."

While this is Tuioti's first season as a coach, Salanoa was a part-time assistant at Radford last year. Although he lacks experience, Salanoa said his age has worked to his advantage in relating to his players.

"I think that's what made my transition a lot easier," said Salanoa, who finished his career as a record-setting quarterback at Eastern Washington in 2001. "The players seem to want to open themselves to me because I'm so young and I know their lingo. I know how they talk and I know what they want. I told them, 'I was in your guys' seats about seven years ago.' "

But Tuioti points out that the age factor is only part of the equation in winning the trust of the players.

"I'm a big believer that whoever is genuine, and whoever is real, and whoever is honest and fair with the kids, the kids are going to respect those people whether you're young or you're old," he said. "The kids can see through somebody who's really there for the best interest of them or who's there just for the show."

On the field, Kapolei enters the season with its first senior class and as the favorite to win the conference title. The Hurricanes went 5-3 in their first varsity season last year and shut out OIA Red West power Waianae 21-0 in a nonleague game last week.

"They realize there's a lot they can accomplish and they're going to be fired up to prove themselves more than any other year," Hernandez said of his Hurricanes.

The top four teams in the regular season qualify for the OIA White playoffs, with the two finalists advancing to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association's inaugural Division II state tournament.

"I think it's good they made a Division II to give the smaller schools a chance to play for a state title," said Barit, the Waialua coach. "I think it's the best thing they ever did."


A team-by-team look
at the OIA White

Aiea Na Alii

Coach: Wendell Say
2002 record: 2-5 OIA Red, 2-6 overall
2002 postseason: None
Players to watch: WR Ben Ah Mook Sang, RB Raymond Tauala, LB Lawrence Leovao, DB Aveni Leung-Wai.
Outlook: Na Alii had their field resodded over the summer and had to take a bus to Aiea Intermediate School for practices until the campus field was cleared for play. Aiea struggled with a young squad in the OIA Red West last year. The sophomores who were pressed into action return as seasoned varsity performers. Ah Mook Sang, the leading receiver in the OIA Red West last year, is back for his senior season and will work with sophomore quarterback Kali Kuia in Aiea's pass-oriented offense. The defense has leadership at linebacker and in the secondary in returning all-stars Leovao and Leung-Wai.

Kaiser Cougars

Coach: David Maeva
2002 record: 3-4 OIA White, 3-5 overall
2002 postseason: None
Players to watch: QB Steven Pratt, RB/LB Shannon Wise, LB/RB Richard LaBoy, DB Chris Assily
Outlook: Maeva enters his second year at Kaiser looking to utilize the Cougars' team speed to offset their lack of size. Pratt claimed the starting quarterback job as a sophomore last year and will have a deep group of receivers to throw to. The Cougars will try to spread the field to create one-on-one matchups for Matt Ching, Blain Ling, Landon Kaaua and Kainoa Tauotaha. Richard and Rusty LaBoy, cousins of University of Hawaii defensive end Travis LaBoy, anchor the defensive front, and free safety Chris Assily leads the defensive backfield.

Kalaheo Mustangs

Coach: Tony Tuioti
2002 record: 0-7 OIA Red, 0-8 overall
2002 postseason: None
Players to watch: QB David Pershin, RB Jacob Akiu, LB Aaron Lewis, LB Jacob Myking.
Outlook: The Mustangs were depleted by academic probation last week, but Tuioti hopes the team will be back to full strength soon. The former UH players are implementing the schemes they learned during their years as Warriors with Pershin operating the run-and-shoot offense. Akiu, the nephew of former Kalaheo coach Mike Akiu, is a speedy back and Neil Bowers gives Pershin a big target at receiver. Lewis and Myking, an all-star baseball player, headline the defensive unit along with safety Nick Heldreth.

Kalani Falcons

Coach: Greg Taguchi
2002 record: 0-7 OIA White and overall
2002 postseason: None
Players to watch: OL/DL Jason DeGuzman, QB Preston Pires, SB Carson Kim, SB Derin Goya, LB Jared Diseria.
Outlook: The Falcons last won a game in September 2000 and did not have a nonleague game to prepare for tomorrow's season opener against Kapolei. DeGuzman is the leader of both the offensive and defensive lines. Pires moves up from the junior varsity to step in at quarterback and has reliable targets in Kim and Goya. James Miyashiro and Blane Tanabe are the primary running backs. On defense, Diseria heads the linebacker corps and Taguchi has been impressed with the development of a young secondary that features sophomores Brandon Liao and Jeff Boyne and junior Jason Leong.

Kapolei Hurricanes

Coach: Darren Hernandez
2002 record: 5-2 OIA, 5-3 overall
2002 postseason: None
Players to watch: QB Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada, WR Brandon Pieper, LB Drake Kula, CB Roland Mason, DB Kainoa Enhada.
Outlook: The Hurricanes have installed a run-and-shoot offense, but retained elements of the option game to maximize the talents of Kaheaku-Enhada at quarterback. "He's one of the fastest guys on the team and we'd be foolish not to utilize his speed and elusiveness as a runner," Hernandez said. Running backs Gilbert Brown and John Delarama are a "thunder and lightning" combo in the backfield. Kula, a Division I college prospect, returns at linebacker, while Roland Mason is a playmaker in the secondary. Defensive ends Warren Simanu and Imiloa Sakai combined for six sacks last week against Waianae.

Moanalua Menehunes

Coach: Arnold Martinez
2002 record: 1-6 OIA White, 1-7 overall
2002 postseason: None
Players to watch: RB Wallace Coleman, FB/LB Quintin Tang, FB/LB D'Tarie Hopkins, CB/KR Nigel Ross, DB Brandon Taniyama.
Outlook: Martinez prepared his young squad for the season with scrimmages against Division I programs Leilehua, Saint Louis and McKinley. The Menehune offense will run a veer option attack led by sophomore quarterback Stanford Leti. "It seems to suit our talents well," Martinez said. "We wanted to put in a system that's going to benefit us as far as our personnel." Tang and Hopkins are big contributors as both fullbacks and linebackers. Ross is the fastest player on the team and can make plays at cornerback and as a kick returner. Taniyama is another leader in the secondary.

Radford Rams

Coach: Fred Salanoa
2002 record: 2-5 OIA Red, 2-6 overall
2002 postseason: None.
Players to watch: OL Lincoln Kakiva, LB Lino Kakiva, LB Philip Elisara, LB Jason Opetaia.
Outlook: Salanoa has installed a one-back offense with three receivers and a tight end, the same system he ran as a record-breaking passer at Eastern Washington. Salanoa said junior quarterback Steven Baughn is gradually picking up the scheme, with Sonny Belcher as his top receiver. "A lot of responsibility goes on the quarterback," Salanoa said. "He struggles through it, but I believe at the end of this year and going into next year he'll be an awesome quarterback." Until the offense comes around, defense will have to carry the Rams. Salanoa is high on the senior linebacker corps of Lino Kakiva, Elisara and Opetaia as well as safety Dennis Medina.

Waialua Bulldogs

Coach: Lincoln Barit
2002 record: 3-4 OIA White, 4-4 overall
2002 postseason: None
Players to watch: OL/DL Travis Siu, OL Matt Suyat, LB Justin Barit, DB Brett Guerin.
Outlook: Lincoln Barit moves up to the varsity level after three years as the junior varsity head coach and takes over a team blessed with senior leadership but lacking in depth. The Bulldogs have 31 players on the varsity roster and suited up 25 for last week's nonleague game with Kapaa. The Bulldogs will continue to run the spread offense with Siu (6-foot-2, 270 pounds) anchoring the line and Kala Labra taking over at quarterback. Linebackers Justin Barit, a first-team OIA White all-star last year, and Reggie Vidad lead the defense.


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