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Hawaii Prep World | Sports

Kaiser football has a proud 50-year history

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                                The Kaiser High football team posed after winning the Prep Bowl in 1979. It remains the school’s only top-tier football title.


    The Kaiser High football team posed after winning the Prep Bowl in 1979. It remains the school’s only top-tier football title.

                                Kaiser High School.


    Kaiser High School.

                                Kaiser running back Boyd Yap rushed for 166 yards and three touchdowns in a 27-7 victory over Kamehameha in the 1979 Prep Bowl.


    Kaiser running back Boyd Yap rushed for 166 yards and three touchdowns in a 27-7 victory over Kamehameha in the 1979 Prep Bowl.

                                Rich Miano returned an interception during Kaiser’s Prep Bowl victory.


    Rich Miano returned an interception during Kaiser’s Prep Bowl victory.

Bill Von Arnswaldt remembers Kaiser’s first-ever win in football, but not for the reason you might think.

“We lost our quarterback, Jimmy deFries,” the former Kaiser coach and athletic director recalled. “First (OIA) game (followed) and we had to use our second-string quarterback.”

It wasn’t the win, a 4-0 victory over Kapaa in Lihue Sports Stadium, that he remembered — a victory, by the way, in which the only points came on two safeties.

It was also Kaiser’s first interisland trip as a team, in just the second varsity game ever played. The excitement of getting on a plane and traveling to play on another island? Nope, that wasn’t at the top of mind either.

The memory was about the kid who broke his arm, and had his season cut short.

Tonight’s game against ‘Iolani marks the 50th anniversary of the first Kaiser football varsity season. Over that time, there have been district titles, OIA championships, a Division II state title, and as everyone in East Honolulu who was around in 1979 remembers, a Prep Bowl title.

Those are the accomplishments on the field, but as most long-timers associated with Kaiser football will tell you, the memories always come back to the relationships that have been made.

“When you saw that vein pop, if you did something wrong, it was best you get moving.”

That’s how current Kaiser coach Tim Seaman remembers Von Arnswaldt, who was his position coach as a defensive back in 1978 during his only year of high school football at Kaiser after moving here from the mainland.

He was one year ahead of Rich Miano, who also moved to Hawaii from the mainland during the middle of his high school career.

Miano was on the diving team and was recruited to play football his senior year by Ron Lee, the head coach at the time, and his brother Cal, now the winningest head coach in Hawaii high school football history.

The football team was a mesh of players from all over, as well as kids moving to the developing community of Hawaii Kai.

Von Arnswaldt, who also headed the strength and conditioning program, had developed kids into successful powerlifters.

But it’s those veins everyone seems to remember.

“(They) were coming through his quads and biceps. He was a monster,” Miano recalled. (Years later) when I came back to the school, I’d go into the weight room and I’d see Bryan (Almadova, ’78 grad) and Brad Thiessen (’78 grad) benching 225 pounds for reps still. And then you think about the powerlifting team back in the day and then for us, we weren’t the biggest team, but we were by far the strongest team in the state. That’s the work ethic that stays with so many guys.”

Athletic Director Ted Fukushima had a budget of around $1,300 for 10 sports when he started building the athletic program in the early 1970s. Part of his fundraising was going door-to-door in the community selling huli huli chicken tickets for $1 apiece.

Kaiser still had fewer than 1,000 students when it began its first year of varsity football and took its lumps early on, beating just one OIA team over the first two years.

As the community, and the school, grew in numbers, the team started to improve. An all-star group of coaches, including new hire Vinny Passas as the QB coach, helped lead Kaiser to its first district title in 1977 when it beat Farrington 7-6 to complete an undefeated OIA regular season.

“We had about 29,000 to 30,000 people there. The whole bottom of the stadium was packed,” Almadova recalled. “That game was very physical, where you knew at the end of it you were spent. But we were on our way up.”

The Cougars lost to Kailua in the OIA Eastern Division championship game but came back the next season and made it to the OIA title game. They lost a rare shootout to Waianae, 35-28, after a last-minute fumble deep in Seariders territory.

That set the stage for the magical ’79 season that saw the Cougars thump Kamehameha as a six-point underdog, 27-7, to win the Prep Bowl.

“I just remember the magnitude of it,” said Miano, who had two interceptions in the game. “It was an epic David vs. Goliath matchup. We were smaller in every way, and from every standpoint Kaiser was a major underdog.

“But we had Boyd.”

Ask anyone about the best players to come to mind over 50 years of Kaiser football and Boyd Yap is at the top of the list.

The 1979 season was his only year playing for Kaiser, but it was a memorable one, capped by a 166-yard, three-touchdown performance against his old school.

“Boyd Yap is the best football player I’ve ever seen in high school,” Miano said. “No disrespect to the Tua Tagovailoas and the Marcus Mariotas and the guys who have come around since, but Boyd Yap was incredible. He was a rock star.”

He was the first Kaiser player to top 200 yards rushing in a game, and that mark held for 27 years. He still has two of the top 10, single-game rushing performances in school history.

Running the ball in the run-and-shoot offense proved to be the perfect combination.

“I wasn’t sure at the time I was going to run a lot in Ron’s run-and-shoot offense,” Yap said. “But it was a great experience playing with those guys and in that type of offense. We ran great plays, we’d run sweeps, and my favorite play was probably the draw play.

“Because we threw the ball so much every now and then you’d get a draw play and it was a lot of open field. It was fun, man.”

In eight years, Ron Lee did more than just win games and championships. He created the next generation of teachers, coaches and men who would devote their lives to give back to the school.

Miano, who was the first player under the Lee coaching tree to make it to the NFL, came back to the school in 2012 and in two years led the Cougars to their second OIA championship.

Seaman, who has been at the school for more than 30 years as a teacher and coach, took over the varsity program again in 2018 to help bring it back after a difficult two-year stretch in which the Cougars forfeited nearly an entire season.

All he did in three seasons since, while going through a pandemic, is guide the Cougars to the OIA Division II crown in 2021.

Almadova, who followed in Ron Lee’s footsteps to Willamette (Ore.) for a year before coming home to walk on and eventually earn a scholarship at the University of Hawaii, has been a presence at Kaiser for just as long. He retired in June after 34 years of teaching at-risk students as part of the alternative learning center.

He still remains on Seaman’s coaching staff.

All of them came back because of the people who came before them.

“Ron and Cal (Lee). Bryan Almadova. Brad Thiessen. Bill Von Arnswaldt. I always felt close to that community. How do you get all of these great people rolled into one?” Miano said.

“When I came to Hawaii and walked across the bridge to Kaiser every day, I told myself if I ever got any money I’d buy a home in this community. I was able to do it in 1987. I bought my home and it was because of Kaiser.”

“I always wanted to be a PE teacher and go back to my alma mater and coach because I had Ron Lee and Bill Von Arnswaldt as mentors and they let me be a teacher’s aid,” Almadova said. “Tim and I are just blessed because they saw something in us.”

“You look back on that staff Ron assembled. Ron Lee, Howard Peralta, Vinny Passas, Fred Tubbs was another guy. Cal (Lee) was in and out. That’s a special group of coaches,” Seaman said. “Winning championship is nice and we had a couple of runs here and there, but the thing that stays with you is the relationships you develop over the years. Just because you might not win a championship, the relationships are still deep and the bonds that you make are what you remember the most.”

Hawaii Prep World

Hawaii Prep World

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