POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Dec 01, 2009
Walter Santiago says he and his father of the same name are "super close."
Dad agrees, but this week they're giving each other some space. Pops is the offensive coordinator at Kahuku. Son starts at cornerback for Kamehameha. The Red Raiders and Warriors duel Friday for a state football championship.
Both chuckle when asked about it, but things are definitely a little bit awkward at home at times. Sometimes "Walt J," as the son is called, sees his dad watching tape of the Kamehameha defense. "I look away really fast."
Walter Sr., 39, the former Kahuku star quarterback and Hawaii linebacker, laughs.
"I told him it's no holds barred. This week I have to take off the Dad shirt and put on the Coach shirt. I have all these other boys I'm responsible for," the Kahuku teacher and New Hope pastor says. "I still help him out with the little things. But he knows to stay away from talking about what we do."
Walt J turned down an invitation to stay at grandpa's this week. He understands his father's role, and the house is big enough for the championship hopes of both Walter Santiagos -- most of the time.
"My dad is the one who gets all pumped up. The competition is there for both of us, but I just try to stay humble."
Says Walter the elder: "The good thing is I've seen every Kamehameha game. And I've got all the film I need."
Son says it works both ways: "I know what he likes to do."
WALT J never wanted to go to Kamehameha. He wanted to be a Red Raider For Life, like his friends, neighbors and relatives. He wanted to be a Kahuku star, like his dad and uncles.
"But I made him take the test, and he passed," the father says.
He has adjusted since enrolling at the Kapalama campus in 2007. "I love it now. My teammates are my brothers."
The 5-foot-10, 170-pound junior is part of perhaps the state's best defense (Kahuku can lay claim to that title, too -- it will be settled Friday). His athleticism is unquestioned, but the first-year starter has been tested often because of his relative inexperience.
"We have Chaz Bajet on the other side, and he's a three-year starter," Warriors coach David Stant says. "Everybody goes after Walt."
The better alternative isn't always a good one. Saint Louis learned that when Santiago grabbed two picks in a big Kamehameha win.
"I like getting the opportunities, the challenge," he says. "If I get beat, just get back up and go at it again."
Says Stant: "If you know Walt J, you know there's not much that bothers him."
His 250-pound cousin, Kahuku lineman Kamalani Aalona, says he's coming to get him on a screen pass. And he might bring the Santiagos' next-door neighbor, 265-pound linemate Jamal Napeahi, with him. Life can be tough on the corner -- even when you're playing your family and friends.
Stant is dealing with a house divided of his own. His son, Kawika, is a standout Warriors linebacker. Kahuku linebacker Keanu Yoshida lives there, too.
"Kawika said he might not talk to Keanu this week," Walt J says.
Red Raider For Life, or so the motto goes. Stant -- also a former Kahuku star -- must put that sentiment aside for a week. For now, he must do everything possible to give Kamehameha an edge ... even if that means appealing to a man's sense of fatherhood.
"Walter congratulated me after the (Leilehua) game," Stant says. "I told him you better not pick on your son. Blood is thicker than water."