Cougar Conquest

The highlight of Homecoming week is seeing the stands packed with eager spectators, the band playing proudly in the stadium, and football players decked in full gear running down the field.

The long-awaited Homecoming game will be drawing crowds to the Kaiser stadium on Friday, Sept. 7, as the perfect ending to an excitement-filled week. Kaiser will face its long time rival, the Kalani Falcons, with junior varsity playing at 5:00 p.m., and varsity playing at 7:00 p.m.

This year’s team has grown in size from last year, with nearly 50 players on the varsity team and 40 players on the junior varsity team. Players have been practicing after school from 3:45-6:00 p.m. These daily practices, as well as increased participation, have changed player perception. The players are more determined and united, viewing their drills as not merely mechanical. They are trying to erase the memory of last year with a more confident attitude.   “The whole general attitude of practice [has changed],” said junior Joseph Chin (varsity, #57). “It’s more like a family now.”

The team’s close-knit vibe doesn’t just stem from its players. Coaches and experienced volunteers are working to build the team’s skills from the bottom up. “Every step, every alignment, [every] technique that you utilize has a purpose,” head coach Timothy Seaman said. “And I think that when the guys learn to put all the little things together, then the big things will take care of themselves.”

Volunteer coach George Lumpkin, who currently serves as the University of Hawaii’s Director of Football Player Personnel, has extensive experience when it comes to coaching the game. He described his approach to the Kaiser team as technique-oriented, with each practice starting with individual drills and moving on into group drills, then team drills.

“We like the attitude of our team… our practice attendance is good, and guys are working really hard. We feel like the guys want to do well, [and] effort is being put forth to get better,” said Seaman.

While everyone is optimistic about the season, the strongest sentiment surrounding the team is determination. The players and coaches alike noted the team’s clear drive to play and to win. Setbacks, such as Hurricane Lane’s cancellation of the St. Francis game, have only made the players more determined to practice hard and play well.

“From the beginning of the season — from summer time until now — it’s been really competitive,” said co-captain Noah Matsumoto (#7). “People are working harder to get some playing time, realizing that [there are] a lot more guys this year.”

Along with competitive spirit, a sense of camaraderie extends beyond drills and scrimmages. Knowing that the time they spend here can’t be taken for granted, players like co-captain Reece Kaonohi ( #22), voiced appreciation of the team’s attitude towards this season. “The environment is more happy and more fun. We’re enjoying football, enjoying practice, enjoying our games,” he said.

Matsumoto and Kaonohi have been working hard to stabilize the team. “My role as team captain is to be an example, always working hard” said Matsumoto. “Just work hard and never give up. When people aren’t doing what they’re supposed to, [I] make sure everyone’s doing the right thing.”

Matsumoto adds that the team’s commitment level has grown. “Since last year, we’ve been a lot more energetic,” he said. “People [are] wanting to go to practice and getting better… we’re a lot more excited because there are a lot more games that we can play.”

The excitement centered within the football team is spreading throughout the entire school. During the Homecoming halftime game, other student groups, such as the marching band, cheerleading squad, and Homecoming court, will be showing their Kaiser spirit as well. Also during that time, the spirit trophy will be awarded to the class who demonstrates the most spirit throughout the week.

After Homecoming, the team looks forward to more successful games before wrapping up the season. “I just want to get better from last year,” said Kaonohi. “Better myself as a player and as a teammate to my friends, my brothers out there…[we want to] win every single game we can.”

Leigh Farah / Sports Editor | Tara Morisato / Co-Associate Editor

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