By Jill Adair
At a school rich with tradition, bringing back a former football star to coach only seems fitting.
Applying for the job as Mesa High School varsity football coach earlier this year, Kap Sikahema didn’t get very far in the process but was offered a job as assistant coach at Westwood High School. After some encouragement on social media for the community to call for district officials to reconsider, things turned around. Kap was offered the head coaching position at Mesa High and planned to meet the team for the first time Wednesday morning.
“I don’t think I’d be here if it wasn’t for the community,” Sikahema said Tuesday. “They really came together and went to bat for me. I’m grateful for them.”
Sikahema played for the Mesa Jackrabbits from 1982 to 1984, graduating with the Class of ’85. He served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Tonga and, after returning, played as a defensive back for BYU.
His older brother, Vai Sikahema, played for the Jackrabbits in the late ’70s, helping the team to the state finals in 1979. He went on to play for BYU, and, after serving a two-year church mission, became the first Tongan to play in the NFL, being drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals (now the Arizona Cardinals) and then playing with the Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles. He is news co-anchor and sports director at the NBC affiliate in Philadelphia. He said he is proud of his younger brother.
“Kap is a highly respected coach,” Vai said. “He’s a really good defensive coach and is really good with kids.”
“It’s kind of an iconic job,” Vai said of the head coaching position at Mesa High. “I have such a love for the school and the people who taught and coached us. I never took for granted the great education I got there and the amazing coaching and mentoring we received. Now to think my kid brother will have that kind of influence…it’s very surreal.”
Kap graduated with a master’s degree in public administration from BYU and went into business. He said he’s been coaching for the last 20 years at high schools in Utah, Washington and Pennsylvania.
“It’s been a blessing to be involved with these kids’ lives,” he said.
After visiting Mesa recently he really wanted to return to the school he had attended more than 30 years ago.
“It means everything to me,” he said.
Coach Sikahema said he is assembling a team of coaches who understand Mesa High and the traditions that the school and community hold dear.
He plans to have his staff include former Cardinals player Deuce Lutui; kicking coach Scott Baker and former head coach Bill McKane – all who have deep ties to Mesa High.
“We are Mesa High and Mesa High is us,” he said.
“I want these kids to be coached by quality coaches, quality people,” he said. “We want to bring back the traditions that we helped build. I think the community will be proud of what we can put together and compete with the Hamiltons and Brophys out there.”
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