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Kaeo Drummondo: A New Dawn for Kamehameha Football

By: Annaliese Gumboc

In 2022, Kamehameha’s Varsity I football team faced significant challenges, finishing at the bottom of the ILH with a 0-7-1 record. The offense struggled, scoring only three times between September 24 and October 15. The team experienced several one-sided losses, including a 49-0 defeat against Kahuku and a 69-7 loss to Punahou. Their only non-loss was a 21-21 tie with Moanalua.

Following a disappointing season, Kamehameha made the tough call to part ways with Abu Ma’afala, who served as the head coach for six seasons. Ma’afala, who is still a part of the school’s athletic staff, did not achieve a winning season during his time with Kamehameha, holding a 17-34-1 overall record. In 2021, there was a near-miss at a winning season when the Warriors broke an eight-year losing streak against the Saint Louis Crusaders, but they were unable to progress beyond the ILH playoffs.

Kamehameha’s struggles in the postseason date back well before Ma’afala took charge. The last time the Warriors secured an ILH championship, advanced to the HHSAA tournament, and clinched the state title was in 2009. The team is optimistic that their new head coach will be instrumental in reversing this trend. 

On March 6, Kamehameha appointed alumnus Kaeo Drummondo as the new head coach and director of the Warriors’ football program. Drummondo had previously achieved success as the head coach of Hilo High School, guiding the Vikings to DI state titles in 2017 and 2019. After 2019, he briefly took a coaching position at Kapālama, but returned to Hilo to assume the role of athletic director, responding to the uncertainties brought on by COVID.

Photo: KSK Sports Media Club / Kaydn Ito

Drummondo, who was a linebacker for the Warriors in the early 2000s, accepted the Kamehameha job in hopes of giving back to his alma mater. “I really, truly credit Kamehameha Schools and the game of football for helping me to a great extent, enough to shape me into the person that I am today,” Drummondo said. “The rigor and the resources of Kamehameha helped to shape me as a student and helped me to get ready for college, and then football kind of was a grounding force in my life that kind of helped to keep me, you know, on a good path.”

Yet, with a limited offseason for his team to adapt to the new coaching direction, Drummondo and the Warriors are looking at a challenging road ahead. “You’re trying to build, you know, you’re trying to install schemes and techniques and verbiage and make sure everything can get communicated,” he said. “Very similar to what any other staff is going through, just in our situation, you know, we’ve had a shorter period of time to establish and install, so it’ll just be a work in progress all season.” 

During the time he had in the offseason, Drummondo had his players working hard, and he expected their full commitment on a daily basis. He stresses that football is a daily grind. “If we don’t accomplish what we need to Monday through Friday, then it really doesn’t matter what happens on Saturday, because we haven’t gotten ourselves prepared,” he said. 

Drummondo’s coaching philosophy places a strong emphasis on consistent daily effort. He places less importance on the ultimate outcome and instead focuses on the actions his players take each day, both on and off the field. Drummondo firmly believes that the habits formed through these daily actions are crucial in shaping the team.

“The verdict is still out as far as what type of identity and character that this particular team will have,” Drummondo said. “They have control over what that is, and their control over it is our daily approach to how we prepare, our daily approach to how we get into our playbooks, the type of effort we put into our weightlifting, the type of effort we put into our practices and our conditioning.” 

Drummondo aims to prevent the Warriors from being defined solely by their results or by the opinions formed by others as a consequence. “I think a lot of people look at the results of last season and they come up with conclusions,” he said. “What we tell our players is that we never want to allow the results and outside perspectives of individuals who are not within our circle to be able to place any identity on us. We need to have a set of internal standards of how we operate, and so long as we are upholding those standards, then I think we can feel good about what we’re doing, day in and day out.”

As a result, Drummondo isn’t fixated on the results of his inaugural season with Kamehameha. His primary focus is on the daily improvement of his players, with the hope of building a solid foundation that will pave the way for long-term success at Kapālama

“Our goals, basically, are to develop good people first, recruitable athletes second, a team that can consistently compete for league championships, a team that can eventually, you know, consistently compete for state championships,” Drummondo said. “But all those goals are great, but they’re not attainable unless we are taking care of the day in and day out.”

It appears that Drummondo’s coaching has already made a positive impact on the Warriors, evident in their impressive 3-0 record including a 51-7 victory over Moanalua and a solid 27-15 win against Waianae to start the 2023 season. Nevertheless, it’s important to remember that true success for Drummondo will be measured over the long term.

Photo: KSK Sports Media Club / Kaydn Ito