Dias, Valle to Co-head Coach King Kekaulike Football Team
By Rodney S. Yap
King Kekaulike High School is hoping a blend of old school will amount to new beginnings when it comes to the future of its football program.
Principal Mark Elliot told MauiNow.com earlier this week that King Kekaulike has decided on co-head coaches for its varsity football team.
“We have two new co-head coaches, Dennis Dias, who we all know and love as a longtime former Na Alii football coach and Tyson Valle, who is a graduate of King Kekaulike and played football for Dennis so we’re kind of going back to the mid-2000s — 2001 through 2005 — and we are hoping and looking forward to bringing back “Old School” Na Alii football.”
Dias and Valle take over for the departed Kyle Sanches, who resigned on Nov. 9 after three seasons as head coach. Under Sanches Na Alii finished 2-24 and 0-9 last season, including a second-round forfeit to Maui High.
“We hoping our community supports us. We are really excited about our coaching staff, we also have a number of alumni from different years. Quite a few younger guys are coming back so we are hoping that Dennis and some of the older guys coming back will sort of be mentors.”
Dias is the school’s winningest head coach at 24-16 from 2002 to 2005. He worked as an assistant with the junior varsity program when the sport of football made its debut Upcountry in 1997 and stayed on the sidelines for the next nine years.
“When Dennis was coaching here before, our teams often had cumulative GPA’s of over 3.0. Dennis is very much about character, citizenship, honor and academics most importantly. So we are really looking forward to bringing all of those elements to our team.”
Valle is a 2001 graduate, who played for Dias, and has five years of football coaching experience under his belt, including a one-year stint as head junior varsity coach in 2013.
“He’s definitely the right guy for the job,” Dias said of Valle.
“The man is amazing and I’m actually honored to be coaching with Coach Dias,” said Valle. “I’m excited about the number of alumni guys who have comeback to coach and the huge amount of support that we’re getting.”
The two co-head coaches, along with returning junior varsity head coach Jon Alamillo, and 23 other assistant coaches met at the school last Saturday for an organizational meeting, where everyone signed a coaches code of conduct contract.
“We talked about making a commitment, and we talked about loyalty, about loyalty to each other first and then we can teach loyalty to the players,” said Dias, a retired career educator with 33 years in the Department of Education, and almost all of it in the Upcountry area. “When you play at a small school, that’s how you sometimes win games. Sometimes you may not have the most talented players but if you play together it will come out OK.”
Besides his co-head coaching duties, Valle will also be the team’s offensive coordinator. Leo Caires, who was a star linebacker at Wyoming, returns to Kekaulike as the team’s defensive coordinator.
“We are at a critical stage with the program and we need to rebuild again. And it has to start with behavior and academics first, and when we start moving in that direction football is just going to follow. And we will probably win more games than we will lose — I believe that — because now you’re conditioning and changing behavior and you’re making the kids better students.”
The Kekaulike team from 2002 had a 3.6 GPA under Dias.
“That’s hard to do, and I’m proud of that,” said the coach, who plans to return to Kekaulike part-time to help students build a Personal/Transition Plan upon graduation. “And most of those kids are all productive citizens today. As educators that’s what we should be striving for.”
It’s all about the big picture of life, building better people, Dias and Valle noted.
“We decided if we are going to do this we have to do it right. The biggest thing for us is the kids,” Valle explained. “And our goal is to get every coach on the same page, supporting the same thing, which is the kids — and not just in football, but in life in general. We want to be able to help them pursue their hopes and dreams beyond high school.
“For some it’s college, for others it may be a career path. And this is where a lot of us coaches can help out and guide them in the right direction, getting them on the right path and then maybe having them comeback to our community some day and be bigger and better than us. That’s our goal, that’s what we’re going after, and football is icing on the cake. If we produce “W’s” that would be awesome, but for us the main focus right now is the kids and what they do after they leave our program.”
There was little or no talk of x’s and o’s, offensively or defensively, Valle said the team’s eventual schemes will be based on the personnel.
Meanwhile, the players have already met the new staff.
“The reason we met with the kids already is because we want to focus on their academics,” Valle said.
“We are going to hit the weight room early because we need to build up our strength and teach these kids that if you work hard through the summer it will payoff during the season. We have to go back to our hard country mentality and get our hands dirty and work hard again and go after what we want. But we have to work for it. . . . And once we get closer to the season, our coaches need to be on point with these kids because we are at a point where we need to make them successful fast.”
King Kekaulike plans to use one staff to coach both the junior varsity and varsity teams. The other coaches are: Glenn Kahaleauki, Clarence Rivers, Netane Savou, Craig Vierra, Artie Todt, Michael Kahoohanohano, David Barlahan Jr., Tavita Takitani, Herbert Sagon, Jason Lopez, Nakoa Decoite, Joe Nekaifes, Kainoa Fernandez, Chris Porter, Eddie Alamillo, Mark Kaaa, Sa’a Foster, Ulili Quenga, Donald Poepoe, Adam Akau, and Barbra Baisa.