Tim Seaman chuckles for a second.
The notion of “fun” can carry a completely different meaning to a high school football coach. The connection by phone to Seaman, situated on Kaiser’s campus, is precarious during a few attempts. But the signal finally works, and Seaman thinks about this 5-0 start for the Cougars.
“Fun? I’ve enjoyed seeing the growth in our team. I think that’s a big deal,” said Seaman, now in his second stint as head coach. His Cougars are 3-0 in Oahu Interscholastic Association Division II play with a showdown against Kaimuki (4-1, 3-0) tonight. Each team is in a chase with Roosevelt (4-0, 4-0).
Kaimuki coach David Tautofi knows the trek from bottom to top quite well.
“Kaiser is 5-0 for a reason. They’ve got momentum on their side, especially with all that program has gone through in the last few years. Coach Tim Seaman has done an amazing job revamping and bringing that program to where it’s at today,” he said.
A ninth-grader, Easton Yoshino, has stepped in at quarterback with resounding results for Kaiser. Yoshino has completed 58% of his passes for 768 yards and 10 touchdowns with only three interceptions.
Seaman’s quest for balance has manifested itself. The offense has passed the ball 148 times with 141 rushing attempts. Even the individual distribution has been relatively unpredictable. Three Cougars, Cavin Lim’e, Ethan Lynch and Hunter Phelps, lead the ground attack with a least 22 carries each. Lynch’s four TDs leads the running backs.
Four Cougars have at least 10 receptions. Mason Yoshino, a junior and older brother of Easton, has 21 catches for 285 yards and five TDs, all team highs, to go along with Jesse Stroede (14, 195, one), Dre Falls (14, 114, three) and Kamakana Mahiko (10, 97, one).
Defense, again, has been the cornerstone. After wins over Aiea (21-7), Pearl City (33-7), Pac-Five (33-7) and McKinley (42-0), rival Kalani became the first team to score more than seven points in a 34-10 loss to Kaiser.
Senior Joseph Chin (6 feet, 230 pounds) leads the defensive line. Lim’e’s primary job is at linebacker, where he leads the crew. Falls, a starting guard on the basketball team, and Stroede spark the secondary. Ethan Domen (5-10, 195) is a hybrid safety/linebacker.
The blueprint is devised by defensive coordinator George Lumpkin, the former longtime University of Hawaii assistant coach. Richard Torres, the former Kahuku and UH athlete, is the DBs coach. Former UH player Bryan Almadova is D-line coach and special teams coordinator.
The challenge presented by Kaimuki’s sturdy band of two-way iron men is borderline epic.
The Bulldogs will have a healthy Naomas Asuega-Fualaau. The 5-11, 210-pound running back has rushed for 546 yards (9.1 per carry) and six TDs in four games. He sat last week against Nanakuli with an illness. He makes a mockery of off-balance pursuers, often shredding them rather than dancing around them.
“We need to make sure that we get to the ball with the proper angle. We need to be sure we wrap up and have a lot of bodies around where we need to be,” Seaman said.
First-year starter Jayden Maiava, a 6-foot-5 sophomore, has passed for 1,051 yards and 13 TDs with just three picks in 123 attempts. He has rushed for 131 yards and three more TDs.
“He throws a nice ball. He kind of glides and picks up a lot of yardage. We need to do a good job of containing him,” Seaman said. “His arm strength is very impressive with how he throws the football. He’s long, doesn’t make bad decisions and throws a real catchable ball on the move. His placement is very good, as well.”
Kaimuki linebacker/receiver Kaulana Kaluna has been one of the most dangerous playmakers in the league with six TDs among his 16 receptions (334 yards). Safety/wide receiver Koby Moananu (17 catches, 329 yards, five TDs) and linebacker/tight end Jonah Fa‘asoa (10, 180, one) are also key two-way contributors.
Kaiser has some girth this season with five linemen weighing at least 230 pounds, including 6-foot, 300-pound junior Duke Willing. Sophomores Makani Sua (6-2, 245), Nick Wild (5-9, 230) and Payton Perry (5-10, 200) add depth to the O-line.
Junior Kyler Halvorsen knows the powerful valley winds well. He has made four field goals, including a 53-yarder against Pearl City. With the wind, Halvorsen boots it more than 60 yards at practice.
“The bigger the game, the more important special teams are,” Seaman said. “To be honest, this is going to sound cliche, but every game is a big game for us. That’s where we are as a program. Every team provides a unique challenge for us. We need to practice well all the time.”
With success and stability comes interest. The varsity roster has more than 50 players now. The JV roster is near 40. The coach has righted the ship.
“I like to think it’s growing. We want to increase participation. A lot of kids come into our school with not a lot of football background, so it’s important they get in early and stick with it,” Seaman said. “The key is our response to the challenge.”
Kaimuki Bulldogs (4-1, 3-0 OIA Division II) vs. Kaiser Cougars (5-0, 3-0)
Tonight, 6 p.m., Kaiser Stadium
>> Series history: Kaiser leads 17-13-1
>> Streak: Kaimuki has won the last six meetings dating back to 2005
>> First meeting: Kaimuki 28, Kaiser 6, Oct. 27, 1972
>> Most recent meeting: Kaimuki 30, Kaiser 14 (2018 OIA D-II semifinals)