Fostering a We-is-greater-than-me philosophy, Kaeo Drummondo guided Hilo High to the ultimate team goal, a state football championship. Now that Drummondo is leaving to pursue a new goal, that Vikings’ mantra will be put to the ultimate test.
After six years with the Vikings, including three ultra-successful seasons as head coach, Drummondo said he’s stepping down to pursue an opportunity to be an assistant at Santa Rosa Junior College, his alma mater in Northern California, stressing an actual move from the Big Island has not been decided yet.
“A commitment to a coaching position has been made and a move is possible but still not concrete,” Drummondo said in an email Monday. “In fairness to the administration, the program, and the players, I felt it best that I be as transparent as I can as to not be a hindrance to the program moving forward.
“Whether or not I actually leave to join (Santa Rosa) is still something my family and I are working through.”
The 32-year-old father of four was set to tell Hilo’s returning players of his exit Monday night.
Drummondo called the decision a bittersweet one that was not made overnight. He had a message for Hilo’s returning players.
”Just remember that the previous successes were created out of the learning through failures and the sheer amount of work and time that the previous classes were willing to invest,” he said. “Continue to enjoy preparing and understand that your successes will be a process. Develop and cherish the mindset that WE will always be greater than me (WE>me).”
One possible head coaching candidate won’t be returning either as offensive coordinator Chris Todd, a state legislator, said Monday he was leaving the staff due to constraints to his busy schedule.
In advertising the open coaching position, Vikings athletic director Kurt Kawachi wished Drummondo “the best of luck as he pursues his dreams of coaching football at the next level.”
Kawachi will accept applications through April 20.
Drummondo’s departure comes roughly three and a half months after the five-time defending BIIF champion Vikings beat Damien in the Division I title game in Honolulu to become the Big Island’s first HHSAA champion, but he said the title had no bearing on his decision.
Drummondo, who juggled his coaching duties at Hilo High with his job as a Hawaii police officer, played linebacker for two years at Santa Rosa after graduating from Kamehameha-Kapalama on Oahu in 2003. Lenny Wagner, his former defensive coordinator, has been the Bear Cub’s coach the past five years, and the two have kept in contact.
“The reason for (making) the leap now has more to do with an opportunity being offered,” Drummondo said. “… In the past, there were only discussions about potential opportunities down the road.”
He said assistant Ed Rocha intended to apply and would be a “great candidate.”
Waiakea recently filled its coaching vacancy, hiring Neil Azevedo, and presumably, candidates for that job will be ready-made to apply at Hilo.
On the field, the Vikings will be losing 10 of their 13 all-BIIF selections – including Offensive Player of the Year Kahale Huddleston and DPOY Kuresa Toledo – to graduation, so whoever is hired will have to undergo a quick reloading on the fly, a process Drummondo and his staff seemingly had mastered.
Hilo can only help this coaching transition is as smooth as its past two.
Drummondo came to Hilo as a defensive assistant under David Baldwin, who took over the reins in 2012 and quickly transformed the Vikings from a BIIF also-ran to a Division I title contender.
After the Vikings won BIIF crowns in 2013 and ‘14, Baldwin was suspended by the DOE before the 2015 season and was ultimately let go. Drummondo stepped in, first on an interim basis, and the program showed no signs of erosion, hardly missing a beat in losing just three BIIF games total en route the titles the past three seasons.
The HHSAA success that eluded all BIIF Division I teams ended Nov. 4 when the Vikings beat Maui 26-7 at Wong Stadium. Two weeks later, the Vikings downed Damien 35-19 for the championship, a fitting swan song for Drummondo, wherever his next step may be.
“Hilo will forever hold a special place in my heart,” Drummondo said. “I’m not sure where this journey will lead, but I’m sure I’ll never forget where it began and those who were apart of the process thus far.”
To apply for the position, pick up an application at the school’s main office or at the new gym office. For more information, contact the athletic director at 313-5600.