The Roosevelt Rough Riders are 7-1 with two games to go.
The last time they had seven wins was in 1999. Between then and now, the team that plays up at Skippa Diaz Stadium has nine seasons with two or fewer wins.
But this year, this group of guys is done being used to losing.
“Just more focus. A lack of focus in the past. I’m not going to say the kids come in and go through the motions. They have that look on their face. They come in. They’re ready to work. We don’t have to tell them much. The kids are jut ready and more focused this year,” said head coach Kui Kahooilihala.
“I think before we were scared to be on top. We would play to other team’s levels if they were not as good as us. We would drop to their level, but we try to our full potential every game and just get better from there,” said senior linebacker Tamaki Iijima.
This year marks Kahooilihala’s third in charge. Though they did make the playoffs last year for the first time in a while, the Rough Riders’ last season above 500 was 2007, when Coach Kui’s son was the quarterback. Lowen Kahooilihala is now back helping out the alma mater.
“Back then, too, with Coach Parella and Coach Galli, they had good coaches back then. So yeah, Lowen’s helping us. He’s coaching the quarterbacks on the JV and they’re doing a good job down there,” Kahooilihala said.
Factors that contributed to the improvement this season: an influx of talent from the junior varsity team and transfers into the program.
Junior Aalona Monteilh is a junior defensive back and running back, and one the best players on the team. He and his dad came over from Saint Louis this season.
“I wanted to be with him here, so that’s why I made the decision,” said quarterbacks coach Anthony Monteilh. “Coach Kui was my coach here when I was at Roosevelt. It was obvious for me to get back to my alma mater and try to help these kids gain what I’ve learned through these other coaches.”
The new quarterbacks coach is yet another connection to past Roosevelt success. His senior year as a Rough Rider was in 1987, when the team went 6-5 and had its season ended by Kailua at Aloha Stadium.
Now, after seven years coaching in the Saint Louis program, Monteilh is seeing success on different stage.
“This community is kind of like UH football. If you’re losing, they ain’t coming out too much,” he said. “But there’s a lot of athletes out here that can really benefit from being out here. I think the concept of being the best at what you do is what we’re trying to instill in these players. Acceptance of loss is what they grasp, and me coming from a program like Saint Louis, we don’t accept losses. So that’s the concept we’re trying to get through.”
So far, so good.
“Yeah a lot of people have been like cheering us on and taking a lot of pictures. Before it was like, I remember even our sophomore year homecoming, we walked out onto the field and no one was here, and we had more trash cans in the stands than people,” said Iijima.
Though wins are more plentiful, this team is still focused.
“Just stick to the process and they’ll be alright. They’ll be alright,” said Kahooilihala.
“Throughout these four years, I’ve just wanted to be on the top, and we’re finally getting there this year,” said Iijima.