Coach Johnson Goes West For Football Fix

The break from football that Darren Johnson had envisioned for himself in the fall isn’t gonna happen.

But that is all well and good with Johnson, who recently accepted a position at Kapolei as the Hurricanes’ new offensive coordinator.

“My friends were telling me, ‘You can’t walk away from football,'” said Johnson, a standout Kahuku quarterback in the early ’80s and a longtime high school coach. “I was going to take a break until Darren (Hernandez) contacted me. I had some other offers, but I thought maybe this would be a good move for the long term.”

Johnson spent eight years as Kailua’s head coach and two as Kaimuki head coach. His first Bulldog team went 11-2 in 2007 (and won the OIA White title) en route to a move to Division I for his second year. Most recently, Johnson was an offensive coach on Reggie Torres’ Kahuku staff and also coached varsity basketball and baseball. When the new principal was hired last semester, the school elected to re-evaluate its athletic department, and all coaches were dismissed with the option of reapplying. Johnson decided against reapplying for the basketball and baseball jobs, and was disappointed at the fate of Torres and the rest of his co-coaches within the football program.

“What happened to Reggie was wrong, and Kahuku has lost some really good coaches,” Johnson said of Torres, who is now on Kale Ane’s staff at Punahou, “and I’d had an excellent evaluation (for baseball and basketball).”

As for Kapolei, the Hurricanes have some of the finest facilities in the OIA. “All around, it’s a program,” Johnson said. “I’m excited about it. They have a very, very good athletic director (Darren Camel-lo) and principal, and Darren Hernandez is a great coach. They understand the dynamics of athletics and academics there; it’s refreshing.”

Kapolei’s offensive line coaches, Mike Stewart and Alden Kaaihue, also have ties to Johnson.

“Mike played and coached for me when I was at Kailua. Alden was with me at Arizona Western, Kahuku and Kaimuki. Those were two key ingredients.”

Johnson works as an adult corrections officer during the day. In mid-afternoon, he heads to Kapolei to coach. The ride back to his Punaluu home takes 45 minutes, thanks to the H-3 freeway. “It is all freeway, and it is a good time to evaluate what practice was like to make it better the next day,” he said of the drive.

Kapolei is currently involved in weight training and conditioning for spring football practice, which officially begins June 2. Kapolei’s spring game is set for June 11.