With football season on hold, coaches share hurricane experiences with players

  • The Garden Island file

    From left: Kauai High School varsity football head coach Jason Apilado, Waimea High School varsity football head coach Jason Caldeira and Kapaa High School varsity football head coach Philip Rapozo are shown in these undated file photos.

With the threat of Hurricane Lane looming, many were disappointed that football season had to be put on hold.

But it was clearly understood what the immediate priorities are.

“When we first got the word of the storm coming in … I wasn’t surprised with what we were looking at with Lane hanging out there and how it got up to a Category 5 or 4,” said Jason Apilado, Kauai High School varsity football head coach, on Friday. “I wasn’t surprised, but just like the kids, I was pretty bummed myself.

“These kids worked very hard. Being a new coaching staff, they’ve worked hard from the very beginning when we took the field in March,” continued Apilado, who is in his first season. “Myself, the coaches, the kids, were all equally bummed. We were very much looking forward to hitting the field tonight. They’re charged up and ready to start their KIF season.”

Friday night would have been the opener of the Kauai Interscholastic Federation football regular season. Kauai and Waimea high schools were scheduled to meet at Vidinha Stadium.

On Tuesday, however, the Hawaii Department of Education shut down all after-school activities including sporting events through the weekend. Activities will resume Monday.

“Things are getting serious. Time to take care of home first. Prepare the families, and safety first,” said Jason Caldeira, Waimea High School varsity football head coach.

He added when he informed the team, perhaps in typical fashion, the players wanted to play.

“As coaches, we all want to play, too. But we talked about the seriousness of the storm and the effects it could have on the families and the island, and the season and all kinds of other things,” Caldeira said. “After we had a good discussion about that, they saw the importance of being safe. We’re just going to be home with the families and hope for the best. Hopefully, this storm breaks apart, and then we can move on with our lives next week.”

Apilado, too, said he was met with questions of “why” when he informed the players the game was canceled. He, too, responded with personal accounts of what a storm could do to the island.

“The whole thing is, ‘Why do we have to do this and that?’ I’m like, ‘Well, back in the day I was already out of high school when Iniki hit. Just to give you an idea of what that was like, that storm completely engulfed Kauai. It changed everybody forever,’” Apilado said. “Once I put that story out there, shared some of my experiences with Iniki with the kids, quickly the questions subsided. They were like, ‘Whoa. OK, this is serious.’

“I just said, ‘Look, we’re not sure what this thing is going to do. … Your focus should shift from football to your families, helping your parents prepare for the incoming storm. If you’re the oldest, be a leader and help your parents take care of the little ones. And don’t forget your grandma and grandpa. Help your kupuna.’”

Caldeira said having to shift gears mid-season because of a hurricane threat isn’t new to him.

“We’ve been through this before. My first year, we canceled our first preseason game because of a hurricane,” he said. “I forget the name of the hurricane, but we were supposed to get our first preseason game against (Anuenue School). There was a hurricane outside the island. With that experience coming into this, it wasn’t anything drastic. It’s just, ‘OK, life is more important. Football is on hold. We’ll take care of that. When we’re ready to go, then we’ll go. And we’ll go back to normal with football.’”

Kapaa High School varsity football head coach Philip Rapozo said his team did have a practice Tuesday but didn’t get to meet and talk of the season opener being canceled and of what’s to come.

But they have since been in communication.

“We were thinking Friday was going to be the day of not practicing. I thought we would practice to at least Thursday. We really didn’t talk about it Tuesday,” Rapozo said. “We have TeamReach (app). We communicate with the parents also, and the coaches. Once I got the memo, then I put out a message out on TeamReach, and we talked about it with the players and the coaches. Just told them, ‘Hey, hopefully this hurricane doesn’t come, and we’ll see what happens.’”

Rapozo, too, remembers all too well the aftermath of Hurricane Iniki on Kauai. It’s an experience he shared with his players, he hopes they will never have to go through something like it.

But the Warriors players did get a little taste of what a natural disaster could do when Kauai’s North Shore was hit by flooding in April.

“We helped out with the floods. They’ve seen firsthand the damage of what a flood could do,” he said. “We went down to Hanalei and took the team. We helped clean up. They know disaster just from us helping in the community. … But none of these kids have been through a hurricane.”

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