If Al Bundy and Uncle Rico raised a High School boy

he may have been someone like this…

In 1975, my Glory Days started its two-year run in football and track for Damien Memorial High School in Honolulu. Damien had never had a winning football season since the school opened 13 years prior. That would change in the same year Aloha Stadium, a then brand-new state-of-the-art 50,000-person capacity facility would be commissioned and become the primary field of competition for the Interscholastic League of Honolulu (ILH). As the stadium was under construction our Head Coach, Jack Koury, would remind us every single practice, “In 40 years when they ask who won the first game in Aloha Stadium, do you want it to be you?”.

While the entire state was excited for the new stadium to be delivered, the boys of Damien High were grinding it out in the Spring and summer on the hard-panned, 80-yard-long practice field enclosed by a 318-yard, red-dirt track. While it was nowhere near the quality of practice facilities enjoyed by a majority of the more established league opponents, on September 19, 1975, Damien would win that first game played in Aloha Stadium, a 28-15 victory over Iolani, and go on to post its first winning football season ever with a 6 -3 record.

First High School game, first win, first touchdown pass, first QB running TD. Some memories never lose their luster.

First High School game win, first touchdown pass, and first QB running TD. Some memories never lose their luster.

During our two-year run, we also beat every team in the ILH with the glaring exception of Kamehameha School which, with future NFL players Blane Gaison and David Hughes, was nationally ranked. Another memorable feat from the campaign was posting a 3-0 record against perennial powerhouse Punahou School. If you are at all familiar with Hawaii high school sports, you likely have a very surprised reaction right now.

It is always sweet to be called out for a good day on the gridiron. On that day, I like to think, having a slightly better performance than a couple of future NFL players is a memory of a “good day”.

Like Al Bundy and Uncle Rico, my football days ended in high school. With about 3 minutes to go in the final game of my senior year, I took a shot to the right knee.

Leaving Aloha Stadium, and football, for the last time.

While our record in 1976 would reverse from the previous season to 3-6, there are still some very fond memories to cherish.

A mixed bag: Second in rushing (to future Boise State Bronco and Seattle Seahawk David Hughes) with 442 yards (4.8-yard-per-carry average) and 4 touchdowns. Second in Total Offense with 1,172 yards. Fourth in passing 42/139 (30% – Yikes!) for 730 yards, 4 TDs, and 5 interceptions (Yikes again!).

After the first 5 games that year, it looked a little more promising, leading in rushing and total offense, and third in scoring. Passing – more Yikes! 4 INTs/0 TDs. My legs are my asset.

When all was said and done…

Year-end recognition.

All-in-all, it was a good two-season campaign that I remain very proud to be a part of. That first winning season for Damien was really quite special then and remains so today. Despite my efforts to enlighten my Naval Academy classmates, my Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania neighbors, and any commercial real estate customer who got stuck in a car with me for more than 30 minutes and endured the crazed ramblings of this fallen star, I’m still happy as a clam with my role as a real-life mash-up of Al Bundy and Uncle Rico.

And I am not alone: After being condemned in 2020, a formal “Aloha from Aloha Stadium” event was hosted in February 2023. As karma would have it, this coincided with the Damien Memorial High School Class of 1977 reunion. Three of my teammates, center Ben Aina, tackle/tight end/punter David Wong, and tailback George “Da Scooter” Zuttermeister, and I met on the field at Aloha Stadium. It was the first time I had been in the stadium since my career-ending, final game in November 1976.

ESPN coverage including our Damien team interview. Aloha Stadium hosting a fair number of like-minded, sports history buffs. It was a very good day for me.

Although not quite as celebrated as football, my time on the Damien track team had its moments as well. I was primarily a quarter-miler (slightly longer than the 400-meter standard today). As a sophomore, I was on the Mile Relay (4X440) that won the 1975 ILH Championship and placed third in the Hawaii High School State Championship. As a junior in 1976, we again won the ILH and then placed second in States. My personal best was 50.1 seconds and second place in the ILH championship. I never fully recovered from the knee injury that precluded me from participating more fully in my senior year. I never broke the coveted 50.0-second barrier in the 440 (although I’m not above pointing out that IF it was a 400-meter race I would have posted a 49.81 time. 😎 I think I’ll stick with that.)

ILH and Hawaii State Championship Medals.

46 years, 20 pounds, and 6 knee surgeries later, I’m still proudly competing with Al Bundy and Uncle Rico. Even today I wonder, “What if…