Mustangs’ Sneak Preview Friday At Kailua

First-year head football coach Darrell Poole won’t have to spend this spring cultivating leaders. With a veteran team returning, the Kalaheo Mustangs had that part of the puzzle in place long ago.

“Our seniors are going to lead us,” said Poole. “We should be there at the end. We should be contending for a DII title.”

That has been the plan for the senior class ever since it delivered the school its first OIA overall title in football two years ago on the junior varsity. That team also was coached by Poole, who spent the last six years as Kalaheo’s head JV coach. He took over the varsity job in January after Chris Mellor resigned.

“I’m very excited,” said Poole. “It’s a higher step, a challenge, but I welcome it. The transition has been pretty smooth, since I’ve been here the last six years. We have renewed energy. It’s also like deja vu from when I coached these kids as JV (players).”

The Mustangs went 2-6 last fall in an injury-plagued season, but everyone was healthy last week when spring practice opened. Above all, 43 varsity players took part. The team’s public unveiling is set for Friday night at Kailua High School, which will host the Orange-and-Blue scrimmage.

The Mustangs took advantage of their first opportunity of 2012 to hold live contact drills, according to Poole.

“We’re going to have contact – we’re going to hit,” he said of spring practices. “It’s an exciting time. The kids are excited to see what they can do with full contact. The spring game is something we wanted to get back to, and we won’t have the numbers problems we’ve had in the past.”

Fans may glimpse a tweaked offense Friday night. The veer brought in by Mellor will remain to some degree, but the Mustangs will run more spread-option, according to Poole, to take advantage of their talented receiver corps, which features Nainoa Frank, Derick Morgan and Shem Sukumaran.

All three played on Kalaheo’s DII state basketball championship team in February. “Our wide receiver corps could be one of the best the school has had,” Poole noted.

Quarterback Rashaan Matalolo also returns to lead the offense. “He’s a real fiery guy, who can run the option and who has a great arm as well.”

Defensively, linebackers Sua Atanoa and Omar Silva and interior linemen Joshua Tupouniua and Derek “DJ” George return.

Poole credits his staff – Derek Hinkley (defensive coordinator), Kaipo McKeague (offensive coordinator), Kimbel Morimoto, Kiona Siliga and Chad Gushikuma – as having helped with a smooth off-season.

Poole also announced that Kalaheo will host a 7-on-7 tournament June 9. The Mustangs, who officially open fall camp the last week of July, begin their 2012 season Aug. 11 with a preseason game against Damien.