WAILUKU — Energy levels are high as high school soccer practice officially begins across the state this week.
Over at the Baldwin High School practice field as of Tuesday afternoon, about 65 student-athletes — about 10 of whom were still busy filling out paperwork — were in the middle of drills and drills, Senior Isaac Kaalakea said “It feels pretty good to be back here.”
“I have fun” said Kaalakea, who fills in at quarterback and wide receiver. “A lot of people are coming out and for some it’s their first time here.”
As the exercises begin, the bears are “showing confidently and boldly that they are ready to play” he said, adding that he hopes he and other seniors will “Inspire our team to be better” this season before they graduate.
“The fact that there’s a lot of energy and a lot of kids showing up is a good thing. Making a splash on campus and seeing new faces is always exciting, especially for a new coach.” said Cody Nakamura, who is entering his first season as head coach at his alma mater. “We have a lot of athletes who can play football, we just have to make sure we’re dialing them in so they’re doing the right things at the right time.”
Across town, Maui High coach Aylett Wallwork, who is making his debut as his alma mater’s head coach this year after joining the football staff as an assistant in 2016, said the rivalry with the Bears this year with two alumni coaches is interesting could be.
However, there have only been two days of practice and the coaching staff are still figuring out which new or returning players they have. Wallwork has said it is “Lots of kinks left to work out.”
“I coached defense last year, I was a coordinator last year, so we’re going to keep the way we play defense.” he said. “We want to change some things with the offense being tailored to the kind of kids we have rather than run a system. It’s really a lot of feeling to figure out which direction we want to go in.”
All in all, Wallwork is planning this “Keep things simple” and just let the kids play soccer.
For Nakamura, who was Baldwin’s offensive coordinator under Pohai Lee in 2017 before taking on the head coaching position this season, he wants to continue to build on the foundation the football program has already laid.
“We just want to bring back the tradition of Baldwin football, which is good, so we’re trying to increase discipline and make sure everyone’s on the same page.” said Nakamura. “Don’t change it so much but build on what the coaches have done in the past and try to take it to the next level.”
The Bears will travel to the Garden Isle to play an out-of-league game against Kauai on Aug. 13, but the focus for now is on training and getting back on form, Nakamura said.
“I think a lot of the guys who’ve sat out the past few years are just looking forward to playing again.” he said. “There’s a good excitement going around.”
Maui High officially opens the Maui Interscholastic League preseason on Aug. 12 when the Sabers host Nanakuli at War Memorial Stadium, though they may have a few scrimmages beforehand to prepare and get more game time, Wallwork said.
“That’s good. All the boys are back and I’m seeing them again – I haven’t seen them in a while.” Said Sabers junior Ofa Falekaono during practice on Tuesday. “This year is going to be a good year with them and we’re going to have some good competition with the other guys, especially with Lahaina, but yeah all the guys here are doing well and we’re hoping to get to the level we want to get to come.”
The linebacker completed off-season summer training in preparation for the MIL season, which will have a full two-round schedule for the first time since 2019.
“What I want to strive for is leadership out there with everyone, being a team player with everyone.” said Falekaono. “None of us will play just for us, we will all play for each other.”
* Dakota Grossman can be reached at [email protected]