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New Coach, Young Kailua Team: Nowhere To Go But Up

Going with a youth movement last fall was a good thing for the Kailua football team. A large throng of talented underclassmen spurred such a move. So as head coach Joseph Wong and the Surfriders officially begin spring practice next week, they hope that the earlier game experience will pay off on the field in 2014.

Kailua was 2-7 last fall overall, including a 2-4 mark in the OIA East Red conference.

“You become more seasoned as the years go by, and hopefully, you’ve absorbed more,” Wong said, noting that they are “grinding away” every day. “(An experienced corps) gives us a good opportunity to be successful.”

Although Wong is entering his first season at the helm, he’s been a fixture in Kailua’s program for the past nine years as an assistant to outgoing head coach Gary Rosolowich, who retired at the end of 2013.

A 1994 Kailua graduate, Wong attended UH his freshman year of college before transferring to Brigham Young University. His stellar career at BYU paved the way for his being drafted by the Miami Dolphins in 1999. Wong also played for both the Philadelphia Eagles and the Oakland Raiders in his career.

During his prep days at Kailua, Wong played for the legendary Alex Kane. At BYU, he developed a strong relationship with current Hawaii coach Norm Chow, who was then BYU’s offensive coordinator.

Wong’s long tenure at Kailua has made for a smooth transition to the head coaching position. “The kids have been real receptive to my style, and they understand what I’m about,” he said. “I like the response and the effort out there.”

Players have been working diligently in the weight room since early February, and more of the team’s multi-sport players are rejoining the fold now as spring sports wind down. When Kailua begins spring drills next week, Wong expects to have the full roster involved.

Under the OIA’s guidelines, Kailua is allotted 10 practices within a two-week period. The Surfriders’ public unveiling is set for its spring game at 6 p.m. June 13. “I’m excited and looking forward to it. The effort of the kids in the classroom and on the field has been great, and it’s all I can ask for. We’re really excited for the season.”

Spring practice is the first time a prep team can hold full contact drills and scrimmages. But at the end of spring drills, teams must again go without contact until the official start of fall camp during the last week of July. With that in mind, Wong said the Surfriders will build up to full contact as they prepare for the spring game.

“As the 10 days progress, we’ll have more and more hitting and more scrimmage situations,” he explained. “We’ll work our way up to it (full contact). We have a lot of people who are playing a lot of positions. We have a lot of good players, and we’re trying to see where they fit the best.”

Kailua’s OIA Red opener is set for Aug. 15 at Leilehua.