News out of the Big Island Interscholastic Federation athletic directors’ meeting will have a big impact for Pahoa, Ka‘u and Kohala.
The three schools had fielded eight-man football teams in recent years. Pahoa announced its plan to move into 11-man territory, and Ka‘u and Kohala will follow suit since staying in eight-man isn’t feasible.
Pahoa and Ka‘u had rosters of 30 or more players, so the time is right.
“We started in 2013 with 22 kids, and only 18 or 19 were consistent,” Ka‘u athletic director and BIIF football coordinator Kalei Namohala said. “The coaches wanted to be in 11-man, so they weren’t happy about eight-man, but we needed football on our campus. Our coaches were game.”
Last season, 40 turned out at Ka‘u and they finished the year with 33. Ka‘u won the BIIF eight-man title with a 4-0 record (6-0 overall), outscoring league opponents 166-54. The Trojans had some 11-man football success in the 1990s when Mark Pollard was head coach for two years, making the 148-mile round trip daily from Kailua-Kona to lead the program. The Trojans were 4-6 in their best season during that decade, which is notable because there was no Division II at the time.
If another team replaced Pahoa, Namahola said she would consider staying in eight-man football.
“But the community wants 11-man,” she noted. “We have a line now and a couple of them are freshmen. This class coming in (this fall) has big kids and they’re athletic.”
Pahoa went 2-2 in league play, outscoring foes 114-84. The Daggers were 3-4 overall. The resurgence for the Daggers is significant. In the 1990s, the program struggled to stay afloat and was in and out of the league before folding in ’99.
For Kohala, where numbers have been inconsistent, there were 23 football players in the fall. That’s a high number for the Cowboys, but will it work in the 11-man game?
Kohala was outscored 168-26 in four BIIF eight-man games (0-5 overall). With a tiny enrollment, the Cowboys are now in a tough spot if they want to keep up with the Joneses in lieu of eight-man football. There is hope, however, that the Pop Warner program will support the high school team.
“For us our hands are kind of tied. Pahoa made the decision to go to 11-man. Then Ka‘u decided to go. We basically have nobody else to play,” Kohala athletic director Laurie Koustik said.
Kohala had a good number, 23 players, last fall.
“One game we were down to 17 kids. For eight-man that’s manageable. For 11-man, that’s going to be tough,” Koustik said.
She has hope, though, for 11-man.
“I talked to my coach (Chad Atkins) last night. We’re going to make every attempt to field a team. We think 30 is going to be the magic number. He’s spoken to the local Pop Warner coaches. They were supposed to have a Unlimited team, that’s a new division for Kohala. They’re going to cease that, that’s my understanding, to try and help us with numbers,” she said.
The Maui Interscholastic League is the only other one that has eight-man football. There has been some chatter in recent seasons about Molokai moving over to 11-man, but the MIL would still have three teams in eight-man: Lanai, Seabury Hall and Hana.