Thursday, September 8, 2022 | By Nick Abramo
With the McKinley band belting out an instrumental version of the Beach Boys’ “Barbara Ann” in the stands, Tigers coach Kale Ane worked on formations with some of his players on the sideline before last Friday’s game against Kaimuki at Roosevelt’s Ticky Vasconcellos Stadium.
There was a certain synchronicity that the school’s yellow-clad band was playing that mega-hit from 1965 — Ane’s coming-of-age era before he graduated from Punahou in 1971.
Ane, a former Buff ’N Blue, Michigan State, Kansas City Chiefs and Green Bay Packers center, has dedicated his life to patiently and informatively instructing Hawaii’s football youngsters.
After coaching Punahou to two top-tier state championships in 2008 and 2013 and heading that program from 1999 through the pandemic-canceled season of 2020 and into early 2021, Ane took over as McKinley’s head man before the ’21 season.
“I’d like to stay here and build a program with all the values we want to teach, the nuances of playing a team sport, and get it so it’s successful and we’re winning and doing the other things, like being consistent, working hard and being good teammates.”
And there have been some bright spots in the little time he’s spent at McKinley, despite an 0-12 record since starting, including 0-4 this year and a 69-20 loss to those Bulldogs that night.
“The goal is to have consistency and certain expectations and standards and we’ve come a long way,” Ane told ESPN Honolulu on the phone Wednesday. “We had a great offseason and the kids are starting to pick up the concepts. The next big step is to continue to work on faith and trust in each other and work hard for each other.”
Ane has always been known for his calmness during practices and games.
“When players make a mistake, that is the time to talk to them and get their head up and say, ‘Don’t give up. You will learn something from this, so let’s move on,’ ” he said. “Our job is to teach them confidence to go back out and do it. We want players, if they make a mistake, to say, ‘Tell me how to correct that and give me the tools I need to be successful.’ Success breeds confidence and it has to be developed. That process is really hard. When I was first hired at Punahou, we weren’t as accomplished (as we became).”
Ane saw a difference in offseason weight training this year and is glad because he thinks that’s where it all starts.
“They’re lifting more weights and the majority of the kids are stronger and faster,” he said. “Now it’s about transforming conditioning to the field. We’ve made plays, but not consistently. That is such a big key for us. One play is not good enough. Every play is important. Two out of eight plays is not enough. We’ve got to get that mind-set —every play, every play. And getting the fundamentals of blocking and tackling down.”
Tackling was a big problem against Kaimuki as the Tigers got burned on many long plays by a potent and speedy Bulldogs offense.
A great example of the potential flourishing of the Tigers is freshman quarterback Afi Togafau, who threw two TD passes to Tanner Hiromasa against Kaimuki.
Togafau had never played quarterback before this season and he had the Tigers on the march for a good portion of the game, but some overthrows cost him.
“Afi just came to this school and was asked to play a new position with the leadership and the understanding of the nuances that come with it,” Ane said. “It has been really amazing what he’s done, with everybody watching and judging you and to be able to take that stress and pressure and still pick things up. He sees things. He’s grasping things. It’s great to see that. I can see his future. We also need to work on giving him more time and get a running game going to unlock some of that pressure.”
And for sure, Ane is appreciated by his troops.
“He’s a very great coach,” linebacker Iosua Sefo said. “We’re very blessed to have him. He draws up everything for us before games and I love him as a coach.”
Hiromasa and fellow wide receiver Preston Note along with Sefo and defensive lineman Ivan Corpuz are just a few of the players who shined despite that loss to the Bulldogs.
“The whole team, it’s a great group of kids,” said Ane, whose grandfather Neal S. Blaisdell (yes, that one) coached football and basketball at McKinley in the 1930s. “They try hard and I’m enjoying it. I’m learning a lot, too. I have to make adjustments as well. It keeps the challenge going and we all love challenges. As long as I’m enjoying it and helping to make a difference, I’m going to keep doing it. The people here at McKinley really want to see change.”
As a program, the Tigers have lost 17 games in a row, dating back to a 6-3 win over Kalaheo on Sept. 7, 2019, when Pat Silva was the head coach.
On Sept. 17 at Vasconcellos Stadium, McKinley gets its next chance to break the losing streak with an OIA Division II game against Kalani (1-3).
Mahalo to the these sponsors for supporting our 2022 High School Football content.