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BIIF football preview: Winds of change come to Hawaii Prep

WAIMEA — Daniel Te’o-Nesheim looks at home on the Hawaii Preparatory Academy field, whistle in hand.

It feels a lot like home for the former Ka Makani standout, too.

Te’o-Nesheim came up as a two-way All-BIIF lineman at Hawaii Prep, leading the program to an unbeaten record and league title his senior season, earning him a scholarship to the University of Washington.

With the Huskies, the 2005 Hawaii Prep grad built a reputation as a feared pass rusher and was the career sack leader at the school until his mark was broken by Kahuku grad Hau’oli Kikaha in 2015.

After being taken in the third round of the NFL draft by the Eagles and starting more than 20 games for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Te’o-Nesheim is back where it all started — sporting Ka Makani red as the head coach at his alma mater.

“When the opportunity came I jumped on it,” said Te’o-Nesheim, who served as an assistant with the squad previously before taking the head coaching gig. “These kids are buying into the changes. I hope they are having as much fun as I am.”

With his background, Te’o-Nesheim was the obvious pick to take over the program. He remembers his time fondly at HPA and has a stacked football resume rarely found on the Big Island. But being a high school skipper has come with a few unexpected duties for the former pass-rusher.

“It’s a lot of talking to parents and logistics,” he said with a laugh. “But I love this school. Anything I can do to be part of this community, I’ll do it.”

The winds of change that brought Te’o- Nesheim back to Waimea couldn’t have come at a better time. Hawaii Prep is coming off its first winless season since 1987 and hasn’t won a BIIF title since 2009, albeit there were more than a handful of competitive seasons under former head coach Jordan Hayslip.

For those who remain from that squad, there is a burning desire to improve — and it won’t take much.

“We just have to win one game to be better, right?” said Ka Makani WR/LB Todd Hill. “As players, we can see how much these coaches love the game and we have learned so much already. We have pretty low numbers, but always work hard. We just have to put our heads down and keep working.”

The BIIF’s Division II is a gauntlet. Honokaa is returning an improved squad under second-year head coach Noeau Lindsey, Kamehameha-Hawaii always finds a way to be in contention for a championship and Konawaena has inserted itself into the conversation among the best in the state at the D-II level. To wiggle into the top two teams in D-II on the Big Island is a tall task.

This early, Te’o-Nesheim isn’t making any promises of a full-fledged turnaround in Year 1, but he likes what he sees so far.

“I love the staff I have got with me. A lot of them I played for while I was here,” he said, citing, among others, former NFLer Bern Brostek. “I expect us to play hard and compete. That’s all I ask. I think these kids have got it mentally. It’s just a matter of putting the product on the field.”

Who will be on the field is still relatively unknown, according to Te’o-Nesheim. With a later start date and boarding students trickling in, the depth chart goes through multiple revisions before the first game.

One thing the first-year head coach brings with him is a unique understanding of is what it takes to be successful at Hawaii Prep. The recipe includes a consistent ground game, a commitment from the team’s best players to play on both sides of the ball and a healthy serving of heart and grit.

“I feel like even this early, we are practicing and playing for each other,” said Hawaii Prep WR/CB Jevon Flippin. “We just just have to believe.”

Rarely does a Ka Makani player describe himself as a single thing. Linebackers will double as pass-catchers and running backs will be swatting down passes in the secondary. For example, Umikoa Kealoha is slated to see some reps at quarterback and in the secondary, while Emery Ramirez will play on both offensive and defensive lines. By the end of the season, conditioning is no longer an issue.

“We have always had tough kids that play both ways,” Te’o-Nesheim said. “I think that’s part of the tradition here.”

Te’o-Nesheim said the team will make a concerted effort to run the ball, with Sheldon Aribal and Kamuela Lindsey among those lining up in the backfield.

“We need to sustain drives,” Te’o-Nesheim said. “When we can do it right, it makes the game a lot easier.”

As for other standouts, Te’o-Nesheim stuck to what he knows best.

“I work with the D-line and outside linebackers, so I want to say all them,” he said with a smile.

With the renewed energy around the program, the only way to go is up for Ka Makani.

“Don’t count us out,” Flippin said.

Hawaii Prep opens its BIIF season at home on Aug. 26 against four-time defending BIIF Division I champion, Hilo.

 

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