State champion coach Kaeo Drummondo returns to Hilo High – as the AD

  • Tribune-Herald file photo Kaeo Drummondo has traded in his whistle for an administrative role at Hilo High.

How much does Kaeo Drummondo love Hilo High?

Try as he might, he just can’t seem to leave.

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The two-time state champion football coach is returning to the Vikings as a first-time athletic director, reversing course on a decision earlier this year that took him to Oahu to become Kamehameha-Kapalama’s defensive coordinator. He replaces Kurt Kawachi, who left Hilo to take another post within the Department of Education.

“When the AD position unexpectedly opened it was an easy decision for me to put in for the job,” Drummondo said in an email to the Tribune-Herald. “I love working with our Hilo High student-athletes, and I’m very passionate about developing athletes and athletics in general, so it just made sense. It’s an honor and privilege to be afforded the opportunity.”

Maybe we is greater than me?

Drummondo fostered the team-first philosophy – “WE>me” is on his email signature – during a five-year stint as Hilo’s head coach that saw the Vikings lose just three league games and increase their BIIF Division I-title winning streak to seven, while collecting the first two state football titles in the Big Island’s history.

His hope is that his maxim becomes contagious among Vikings athletics.

“I truly believe in collaboration, and to me the motto embodies the philosophy of Together. Everyone. Achieves. More. I believe that if we utilize this philosophy as our foundation to building our programs, our athletes will embrace it,” he said in the email.

“Our overall goal will be focused on developing our athletes into productive individuals and doing everything that we can to provide them with a memorable high school and athletics experience. There will be a transition period for me to learn many of the details behind conducting the job of an AD, but I look forward to the journey.”

His last Vikings team was a juggernaut, averaging more than 50 points a game en route to a last-second victory against Iolani in the state championship game in November. A few months later, Drummondo stepped down as Hilo coach, for a second time, and relinquished his post as a Hawaii County police officer so he could accept the defensive coordinator position at his alma mater and start work for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands on Oahu.

Shortly after Kawachi announced in February he was looking for a new football coach, he stepped down to become the Classified Personnel Regional Officer for Hawaii Island. In late April, Hilo High principal Jasmine Urasaki announced Laveitiga Suiaunoa, a former Drummondo assistant, as the new football coach.

Drummondo said he’ll have plenty on his administrative plate. Last week, the Hawaii High School Athletic Association delayed four fall sports, including football, until at least January.

“Under normal circumstances, there’s already a lot that needs to be done, but especially with the added challenges of COVID-19 there will be a lot of work ahead for everyone,” said Drummondo, who is still waiting on a start date.

After he led Hilo to its first state title in 2017, Drummondo resigned to become an assistant at Santa Rosa Junior College in California. About a month later, citing family considerations, he returned as Vikings coach.

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Now the 35-year-old married father of four is back again, this time as AD.

“I’ve cherished my time at Hilo High and we love it here, so I’m very excited to be staying put,” he said.

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