The seniors led the way Saturday at Molokai High School field in a romp over St. Anthony to end the football season.
While taking apart the Trojans, the Farmers also established a foundation for building future excellence in Molokai football.
After the 68-16 home victory over St. Anthony, the 13 seniors received special recognition for their hard work and leadership on the field from head coach Mike Kahale. The Farmers finished the second season of Maui Interscholastic League 8-man football 4-0, dominating their opponents with over 50 points in each of the two games each against St. Anthony and Seabury Hall.
“(The seniors) are just awesome,” said Kahale after the game. “They are a great group of guys, I’m going to miss them a lot. There’s some special individuals — they’re all special — but there’s some unique guys in that group that I hope at some point come back into the program and support it and maybe come back and coach.”
With two rushing touchdowns, a TD pass and four long runs of over 40 yards, quarterback Keola DeMello, a senior team captain, had another strong performance. He also proved to be an anchor on defense, using his speed at defensive back to consistently break up Trojan pass plays.
But the senior who really made his mark on Saturday was Kaloko Akina, who recorded four interceptions, his last one run back 50 yards for a touchdown.
Seniors Shauden Pedro and Nolan Nartatez also scored rushing touchdowns for Molokai. Pedro also caught a second half pass from DeMello that went 40 yards for a touchdown.
“I saw definite progress on both sides of the ball,” said Kahale. “Offensively, we executed better, we incorporated new plays throughout the year and the kids picked it up, they understood their responsibility. It’s about taking care of the little details and they did just that.”
Kahale admitted that he would have liked his team to have seen stronger competition this year, but believes it will eventually balance out.
“Football, and athletics, is very cyclical,” said Kahale. “Last year they got the best of us (St. Anthony beat Molokai 24-12), this year we had the athletes but we are losing a bunch of seniors. It definitely helps when you have really good, strong competition because sometimes you play down to the level of your competition and you have to keep the boys focused.”
Despite the player losses, Kahale is optimistic as the MIL heads into its third year with football. “Next year we got to come back tougher, we’re losing a lot of talent. So I just want to encourage all the boys in the high school to come out, ninth through 12th grade. We’re trying to build something great here, something positive, so see us in the off-season and the first day of practice in the fall.”
When football returns, Kahale expects the sport to have received full sanctioning from the MIL executive director Joe Balangitao Jr. Eight-man football has gained interest on the Big Island and among some smaller schools on Oahu, said Kahale. Once three leagues are actively playing 8-man football, a state championship can then be established.
Kahale looks forward to football being a school-sponsored sport instead of just a club sport. “The kids are excited and I’m excited for them,” said Kahale. “We got some good talent in the underclassmen so we’re looking forward to next year.”