Good Times Roll For Kapa‘a Fans

Kapa‘a players celebrate their playoff win over Pearl City with a haka. Jesse Castro photos

They overcame 22 years of falling short before a Kaua’i Interscholastic Federation title finally made its way back into the arms of the Kapa’a Warriors. As with anything worth waiting for, nothing came easily.

“Waimea and our team, we fought literally until the last second of the game,” says Kapa’a head coach Kelii Morgado. “The whole season has been so closely contested, every single week was a battle. So to finally win it was a relief.”

Morgado’s Warriors won the 2011 KIF championship Nov. 7 with a 1714 win over Waimea. A field goal with five seconds left was a liberating feeling for Morgado, which then gave way to “pure joy and jubilation.”

“Having felt all this pressure from so many people,” he says, “it was nice to get that monkey off our back.”

With only three teams in the conference, not winning a title since 1989 makes each looming season more magnified than the one prior. Now in his fifth year as Kapa’a’s head coach, Morgado has seen firsthand what the program means to the community.

Bronson Aiwohi ran 15 times for 83 yards against the Chargers

“Ever since they hired me, I’ve heard all their concerns and felt all their emotions of frustration, despair, and actually getting to the point where they didn’t believe they would ever win,” he says. “They hired me and people were hopeful. That put a lot of pressure on me because we turned it around at Kaua’i, but I didn’t know if the same formula could work at Kapa’a because it had been so much longer.”

The experienced coach did know that creating a winner would not happen overnight, and he set realistic goals for his team to establish a level of confidence that had not been visible for some time.

“Every time you succeed, you get more confident,” Morgado says. “We didn’t talk about wins and losses. I always believe if you only focus on that, you can’t reach your potential. You have to focus on the details, on your assignments, on your responsibilities and executing your priorities as a player on the field. So that’s what we focused on for the first three years.

Then last year, having come that close, the focus changed to finishing finishing what we had started.”

They finished strong this year, finally relieving all the anxiety. It allowed Kapa’a to play loose in its Nov. 12 quarterfinal state tournament game, a 7-0 win over Pearl City and its prolific offense. The victory set up a date with four-time defending Division II champion and top-ranked Iolani Nov. 19.

“The pressure is gone,” Morgado says. “We attacked Pearl City with a lot of passion without the pressure, and it’s more fun that way. Every day in practice the team is extremely focused, but they’re having fun. They don’t want the season to end. They’ve become a very close team.”

Results of the Iolani game were unavailable as of press time, but what is certain is that the Warrior program has ushered in a new era of restored pride in the Kapa’a community. And isn’t that sports at its best?