Insight, News, and Opinion by Nick Abramo
  • June 20, 2021
Mike Tresler And Junior Pale Are Among Nine New Hawaii High School Football Head Coaches In The Pandemic Era

Hawaii Prep World reported last week that John Hao left his position as the Castle High football head coach due to family reasons and that Junior Pale was named as the Knights’ interim coach.

“The good thing is they (the Knights) have Junior Pale, who is on security staff (at the school) and has been coaching at Pac-Five almost 30 years, and Chris Bisho (former Damien head coach and Pac-Five assistant),” Hao told Hawaii Prep World in this April 25, 2021, article: “Castle Football Coach John Hao Steps Down.”

In 2018, Hao and others in the Castle administration were named in a lawsuit filed by Kyle and Ashleigh Giron, alleging that proper care was not taken to reasonably keep their sons away from harm, stemming partly from a dangerous-looking tackling drill that was on video and made the rounds on social media. That story was reported by Hawaii Prep World on Nov. 30, 2018: Football Players’ Parents File Suit Against Castle.

The Castle changeover was one of at least NINE HAWAII HIGH SCHOOL HEAD COACHING CHANGES since December 2019, three months before the COVID-19 shutdown. That means there’s been football staff transitions at 19.57 percent of the 46 Hawaii high school football-playing schools.

Some Hawaii high school coaching changes are old news, but  it’s worth getting ALL NINE OF THEM DOWN IN ONE PLACE here at Bedrock Sports Hawaii, especially since none of the new head coaches have been involved in any real games because of the COVID-19 cancellations of all Hawaii high school football so far in 2020 and 2021.

Former UH Safety Mike Tresler Is In Charge At Kapaa

Elsewhere, Mike Tresler is the new coach at Kapaa in place of the highly successful Philip Rapozo. That was initially reported by on April 6, 2020: Kapaa’s Mike Tresler Eager To Tackle First Coaching Gig.

Mike Tresler’s 1989 football card distributed
by Long’s Drugs.
 (Image credit:

Under Rapozo, the Warriors made it to the Division II state championship game in four of the last five seasons — all losses.

“We can expect that we will be excellent students, perform as a disciplined football team, being good community members, having fun and enjoying life,” Tresler told reporter Kalani Takase.

Tresler is a former University of Hawaii standout safety.

Jay Blanco Is Kohala’s Choice To Take The Reins

At Kohala, Jay Blanco is the new football coach, taking over for Chad Atkins. A Hawaii Tribune-Herald story on the change first ran Sept. 23, 2020: Former Assistant Jay Blanco Is Kohala’s Football Coach; Chad Atkins Content He ‘Fought For Players’

After being let go in October 2019, Atkins let it be known in this Dec. 11, 2019, Hawaii Prep World story that he thought he was wrongly terminated from his position by the school’s administration: Kohala’s Chad Atkins Contests His Removal As Head Coach.

Assistant Lave Suiaunoa Promoted To Replace Kaeo Drummondo At Hilo

Also on the Big Island, Lave Suiaunoa was promoted at Hilo in place of outgoing Kaeo Drummondo, who led the Vikings to Division I (middle tier) state championships in 2017 and 2019. That change was reported by the Hawaii Tribune-Herald on April 28, 2020: Hilo High Selects Assistant Lave Suiaunoa As Kaeo Drummondo’s Successor.

“Lave was an integral part of our staff and he always did a great job helping to develop our student-athletes, even beyond the football field,” Drummondo told the Tribune-Herald.

Robert Dougherty At The Helm Of The Maui Sabers

Robert Dougherty, a former Boston University and Canadian Football League quarterback, is the new coach at Maui. He replaced Rodney Figueroa.

“It’s a challenge,” Dougherty told Hawaii Prep World in this Dec. 6, 2019, Hawaii Prep World story: New Maui Football Coach Robert Dougherty Knows Turnarounds.  “I’ve got a lot of good (assistant) coaches to choose from. I’m going to take my time and build my staff, get to know the kids and the culture and form the program after seeing what needs to be done.”

In recent years, Dougherty filed a suit against Seabury Hall, where he was the athletic director, for wrongful termination.

Robert Dougherty, the new Maui High football
head man, has a wealth of coaching experience.
Image credit: College of the Sequoias athletics).

Vince Nihipali, Nelson Maeda, Leonard Lau And Ron Lee Are Also Newly In The Mix

When Moanalua’s Savaii Eselu took an assistant coaching job at San Diego State, Na Menehune filled the vacancy with former Mililani and Campbell assistant Vince Nihipali.

“I’ve coached all these years, basically doing defense, he told Hawaii Prep World in this March 10, 2020 story: New Moanalua Hire Vince Nihipali Raring To Go In First Head Coaching Gig. “I did it for so long, I always wondered if I could go out and do my own thing as a head coach and see how it works. My friends have asked often if I ever wanted to try being a head coach.”

At Kalaheo, Nelson Maeda is the new coach, replacing the outgoing Darrell Poole.

After being the head man at Castle for 20 seasons and Kailua for two, Maeda spent three seasons as an Aiea assistant.

Maeda described the reasons why he’s looking forward to his new role with the Mustangs in this March 7, 2020, Hawaii Prep World story: Kalaheo Is The Right Fit For New Football Coach Nelson Maeda.

Two other head coaching changes within the past year — at two of the most successful programs in the sate — have been rep0rted on extensively.

Leonard Lau moved in as the interim coach in place of Kale Ane at Punahou. That was first written about in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on May 8, 2020: Punahou School Chooses New Interim Head Football Coach After Placing Kale Ane On Paid Leave.

Ane faces allegations that he was among other Punahou administrators that did not act to prevent sexual abuse of student-athletes. Multiple civil lawsuits have been filed against the school, alleging sexual misconduct years ago by coaches and teachers and that administrators did not step in to stop it.

Ron Lee, a longtime assistant for his brother Cal Lee — the winningest coach in Hawaii high school football history — is now in charge of the Saint Louis Crusaders, with Cal serving as an assistant. Fans learned about that change just before the COVID-19 shutdown, on Feb. 18, 2020: Coaches Ron And Cal Lee Changing Roles at Saint Louis School.

All of these new head coaches — at Castle, Kapaa, Kohala, Moanalua, Kalaheo, Hilo, Maui, Punahou and Saint Louis — have YET TO BE INVOLVED IN A REAL GAME due to the pandemic. Punahou and Saint Louis, however, played in a scrimmage on the Crusaders’ campus field on Saturday.

Hawaii Prep World recapped the closest thing to real high school football since the end of the 2019 season: Gridiron Rivalry Renewed: Saint Louis, Punahou And The Joy Of Football.

A list of all 46 Hawaii high school football coaches follows. Please contact’s Nick Abramo at if you know of any changes or impending changes.


Big Island Interscholastic Federation

HAWAII PREP … Albert Cummings
HILO … Lave Suiaunoa
HONOKAA … Fred Lau
KEAAU … Leo Abellera
KEALAKEHE … Wyatt Nahale
KONAWAENA … Brad Uemoto
KOHALA … Jay Blanco
KA’U … Duwayne Ke
PAHOA … Chris Midel

Interscholastic League of Honolulu

DAMIEN … Eddie Klaneski
‘IOLANI … Wendell Look
KAMEHAMEHA … Abu Maafala
PAC-5 … Kip Botelho
PUNAHOU … Leonard Lau (interim)

Kauai Interscholastic Federation

KAPAA … Mike Tresler
KAUAI … Jason Apilado
WAIMEA … Jason Caldeira

Maui Interscholastic League

BALDWIN … Pohai Lee
LAHAINALUNA … Robert Watson / Dean Rickard
MAUI … Robert Dougherty

Oahu Interscholastic Association

AIEA … Wendell Say
CAMPBELL … Darren Johnson
CASTLE … Junior Pale (interim)
FARRINGTON … Daniel Sanchez
KAHUKU … Sterling Carvalho
KAILUA … Joseph Wong
KAIMUKI … David Tautofi
KAISER … Tim Seaman
KALAHEO … Nelson Maeda
KALANI … Scott Melemai
KAPOLEI … Darren Hernandez
LEILEHUA … Mark Kurisu
MCKINLEY … Pat Silva
MOANALUA … Vince Nihipali
NANAKULI … Kili Watson
PEARL CITY … Robin Kami
RADFORD … Fred Salanoa
ROOSEVELT … Kui Kahooilihala
WAIALUA … Lincoln Barit
WAIANAE … Mike Fanoga
WAIPAHU … Bryson Carvalho

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