Former assistant Jay Blanco is the football coach at Kohala High School, replacing Chad Atkins, who said “he’s able to sleep at night knowing he fought for his players.”
Atkins, who’d been with the program for the last five years, including an 8-man BIIF championship season in 2015, said the administration wasn’t supportive. He pointed to a preseason scrimmage against Konawaena in 2019 as the breaking point in a contentious relationship with athletic director Laurie Koustik.
Atkins detailed his issues with the Kohala administration in a story on hawaiiprepworld.com last December, a move he figured would burn bridges.
“I knew I was the whistle blower,” he said. “But I tried to push and do everything I could for the kids. I got canned and can’t deal with the politics. I wanted to show the kids in Kohala that you can’t let somebody run you over. You have to fight for what is right.”
“He no longer works for the school,” Koustik said in a text message. “I have no comment.”
For his part, Blanco said the administration has been supportive, and he’s focused on fundraising and keeping a sense of continuity.
“I was on staff last year, and he gave me tips and stuff that I need to focus on,” Blanco said. “I’ve kept the same staff.
“The boys have been working out on their own. We’ve got a good core of seniors. It’s a waiting game. We’re like everybody else. We’ve got lots of kids, and it’s exciting.”
He believes the Cowboys will take a step up this season, whenever it starts.
“Last year, we got our feet wet,” he said. “Last year, we put a lot of freshmen into the fire. We’re looking to build off that this upcoming season. Hopefully, we can get some kind of season or a condensed season for the boys’ sake. We’d like to have something.”
Blanco was an assistant along with Atkins under Reggie Tolentino on the 2015 title-winning team. Atkins took the helm of the program in 2018.
Early on last season, he said Koustik was upset that a school parking lot gate was left open and Konawaena fans parked in the lot, which was freshly painted.
“She was upset about the scrimmage, which was attended by more than 200 Konawaena fans,” Atkins said.
The coach said Koustik wanted to charge admission, but Atkins told her that it was a controlled scrimmage. The scrimmage was eventually held as a 7-on-7 with only helmets on, but the problems continued from there to the end of a 3-5 season in Kohala’s first season back in 11-man football.