Football intensifies on Friendly Isle | News, Sports, Jobs

Molokai Middle School players face off in a game during the school’s new soccer program last month in Hoolehua. The program attracted more than 40 participants on three teams of eight players. Alex Bali photos

Mike Kahale sees talent every day at Molokai Middle School.

Kahale, Molokai High School’s head football coach, is a middle school teacher and has a plan in place to strengthen his high school team in the future: a brand new tackling football program for seventh and from eighth to MMS.

Three eight-man squads emerged in April and four weeks of training culminated in matches in May before a COVID-19 outbreak at MMS put a damper on the schedule. But Kahale was still pleased with the inaugural season which drew more than 40 entrants.

Molokai High School has won the last five eight-man Maui Interscholastic League football titles — the last season was in 2019 due to the pandemic.

“We don’t have any tackle football programs here, no youth programs and obviously we don’t have (a junior college) as an eight-man program,” Kahale said by phone Monday. “So everyone who comes to us at secondary level is like their first exposure. Maybe they had flag football experience in the past, but in terms of tackling experience, nothing.

Molokai Middle School running back Kaizen Torres-Umi Napoleon carries the ball.

“So we’re always starting from square one and since I’m a teacher and I coordinate the athletics program at middle school – I see these kids every day and I know there’s great interest and the kids want to play.”

With the opportunity provided by the COVID-19 government grant, Kahale saw the chance to begin her long-desired dream of a feeding program on her high school team.

“With this extra CARES money, COVID and seeking other donations, I secured financial support and we purchased (50) brand new helmets and shoulder pads,” Kahale said. “I had old high school team uniforms and a bunch of older gear just laying in boxes. Lots of other stuff I already had.

“So we got the kids, we had about 45 kids signed up in total, then we got down to about 30, once we started putting on towels and stuff, but just a great opportunity for our kids. And I brought in my team of coaches, we created three eight-man teams – three of my assistant coaches took the head coach (spot) for each, I was the official and the coordinator.

Kahale added that the opportunity seized has paid off – the Farmers have a long-term goal of playing in the 11-man MIL ranks, hoping to join the league when Kihei High arrives, possibly as soon as the 2024 season.

Molokai Middle School players prepare to play.

“We taught them our system, our way of doing things and it becomes a feeding program for us,” Kahale said. “If (11-man football) is the end goal – and it is at some point – we have to find a way to attract more children, expose them a little earlier and teach them certain skills. fundamentals. ”

The program started well with four weeks of training, then ran into difficulties when COVID-19 hit the Friendly Isle hard in May.

“We were going to have each team play the other two teams twice each, so it would have only been a four-game season,” Kahale said. “We played our first games, then right after that we had problems with COVID, at school with our kids, in the community – basically we were closed for just over three weeks. “

Kahale was on the mainland for the college graduation of one of his sons and when he returned the enthusiasm to finish the season was still strong.

“We finished the season with one more game – it was a promotion eighth grade that day (May 26) and we played our last game, our Super Bowl with the kids we had left,” Kahale said. “I think we had about 25 kids. We just made two equal teams and had our Super Bowl at the end and it was awesome, really fun.

Kahale said the response to the program was huge for the small island.

“We kind of filled our parking lot, and you know that’s our stalls on Molokai – we were surprised how many people in the community came out,” Kahale said. “They just wanted to see their kids participate. It’s been a break for so long, especially for our young children. High school athletics started, but we didn’t have any youth sports.

Kahale wants to continue to grow the college program and plans to make it an annual season each spring.

“We have invested in brand new helmets and shoulder pads, so we hope to continue this each year and make this our feeding program for our high school,” he said. “The kids are so excited, so excited to play. They would be more excited if we traveled and played against someone else instead of bumping into each other sometimes.

Kahale added, “Hopefully at some point maybe we can align our college schedule with something that’s happening with other leagues, maybe Maui or Oahu,”

Kahale said if half of the roughly 30 eighth-graders who started the season come out as first-graders in the fall, the program will have been an immediate success. The eight-player MIL league is set to host Seabury Hall again in the fall, Kahale was told by MIL officials, making it a four-team league with Molokai, Hana and Lanai.

Molokai football will get a boost when Akana Athletics – led by Molokai basketball-playing Akana brothers Ry, Jarinn and Brandyn – hosts the second Molokai Skills Camp, free for football players ages 8-17 , June 27 and 28 at Molokai High School Grounds.

The first such camp was held in 2019 before the last two years were wiped out by COVID-19.

Molokai native Kimo von Oelhoffen will be joined at camp by Dominic Raiola and Chris Naeole, all former NFL players from Hawaii.

The camp will also include Kahuku High School coaches, National Offensive Player of the Year Kainoa Carvalho and National Defensive Player of the Year Liona Lefau. Brandyn Akana’s son, Tausili Akana, a rising senior linebacker in Kahuku who has 47 college scholarship offers, will also be at camp.

“We’ve been blessed, with all of our success, so it’s something that we’ve decided as a family that we’re going to do – we’re doing basketball, we’re doing football and we’re also doing a volleyball camp,” Brandyn Akana, Kahuku’s basketball coach, said Monday by phone from the mainland, where he is visiting colleges with his son. “We want to be able to do this for the kids of Molokai once a year. This is our plan and we remember being kids in Molokai and how hard it was to get really good camps and really good instruction.

“So we think it’s our job to come back and kind of put it on for the kids who are in Molokai right now.”

*Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

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