HO’OLEHUA, MOLOKAI — The final score of 24-12, St. Anthony over Molokai, hardly seemed important compared to the mana felt at the Molokai High School field on Saturday in the first high school football game played here in 50 years.
The fiery, competitive spirit of Molokai did receive a minor setback with the loss. Yet in a greater sense, the players, coaches and fans celebrated a game that was an achievement much larger than the score.
“Looking out at the fans and seeing all this … just gave us all chicken skin,” said an upbeat Head Coach Mike Kahale after the game. “This exceeded our expectations.”
Starting even before 11 a.m., it was tailgating Molokai style. The packed parking lot at the high school field was filled with EZ Up canopies, coolers and lawn chairs. Originally the game had been planned for the regional ballpark in Kaunakakai. Unable to meet Maui County’s $1 million insurance policy requirement, the game was moved to the high school.
Uncertainty about the field meant that only a few weeks ago Kahale was unsure if a home game would be scheduled in the inaugural season of football. Molokai had already played a couple of games of touch football against St. Anthony and Seabury Hall on Maui. The Maui Interscholastic League considers this a trial season for 8-man football and will not consider officially sanctioning the league for another couple of years.
Another problem was that the team lacked all the pads and helmets necessary. “St. Anthony was gracious enough to lend us the equipment,” said Kahale.
By dyeing the gold St. Anthony jerseys green, most of Molokai’s 20 players were able to wear an unusual shade of lime green. A few players wore light blue jerseys while one player, Noah Caparida, found a number 19 jersey colored traditional Farmer dark green. New helmets are on order, said Kahale, so that the players won’t have to wear St. Anthony gold helmets again.
Caparida, a freshman, stood out for more than just his jersey color. On four occasions, Caparida broke for runs of over 20 yards. His longest run — a 50-yard sprint around the right corner — was called back for an illegal block. “He was a big surprise for me,” said Kahale about Caparida’s performance.
Senior Kamakana Duvauchelle scored Molokai’s first touchdown in the second quarter after the team fell behind 12-0. The St. Anthony touchdowns came on a first quarter 10-yard run and a second quarter 10-yard pass to the back of the end zone. Playing on an 80-yard field with no goalposts, teams were limited to two-point conversions after touchdowns. All were unsuccessful.
Following Duvauchelle’s 12-yard touchdown run around the left side, St. Anthony returned the ensuing kickoff down the sideline for a touchdown and an 18-6 lead going into halftime.
Coaches and players had positive attitudes going into the second half, knowing that they were just one bad penalty away from being 18-12. “We made a couple of mental mistakes with penalties that can change the momentum,” said Kahale. “I preached to the kids staying mentally in the game.”
For many of the upperclass Farmer players who did not play peewee or midget football, this was their first experience playing full contact, tackle football. “The kids gave a good effort. They have the physical ability but this is just the first year … they were working out some nerves,” Kahale added.
In the third quarter, St. Anthony scored on a long run to push the lead to 24-6. Duvauchelle added another rushing touchdown.
The Farmers had two missed opportunities in the second half. The first came on a snap fumbled by St. Anthony on its own 3-yard line and recovered by Molokai. But in four plays Molokai could not find the end zone. Another drive stalled at St. Anthony’s 5-yard line in the fourth quarter.
Kahale plans to take at least a month off and then get back to training with the players. Most likely, this is the team’s first and last full contact game in what is considered an exhibition season.
With a team made up of only five seniors and predominately underclassmen, Kahale has high hopes for the future. “We are generating enough interest that we can get more kids to come out,” he said. “We’re getting kids coming up who are more familiar with the game.”
As other Maui schools watched this year’s games between St. Anthony, Seabury Hall and Molokai, the athletic directors from schools such as Hana, Lanai and Kihei Charter will be making decisions about next year. “This is all a work in progress,” said Kahale.
The coach added that he was proud of how his kids played. “They can tell everyone that they were the first team to play in 50 years. This will be cemented in their brains and their hearts.”
Click here to see full photo album from the game.