There will be no Mililani showdown against national powerhouse Mater Dei.
The game, scheduled for Sept. 11 at St. John Bosco’s stadium, has been called off. The DOE announced on Wednesday that all fall sports have been put on hold until Sept. 24, ending what could have been a peak experience for the Trojans.
“(Coach Rod York) broke the news that we’re not going to end up going to Cali,” wide receiver Kainoa Ferreira said. “All the boys were really heartbroken because that was a huge opportunity for us on a big stage.”
Ferreira is one of many potential college football players on Mililani’s talented roster.
“It’s kind of heartbreaking for me. Going into my sophomore year, I didn’t have a freshman season. Since we found out the news, the boys kind of talked about it. We decided we would work out on our own. We’re thinking of doing it starting Monday,” said Ferreira, who drew interest from national powerhouse IMG Academy during the pandemic.
Like other skill-position players, Ferreira plans to get workouts done with club coach Kawe Johnson.
“The quarterbacks are all in with us. We’ll run some routes, have some competition. We’ll go to the gym first, get some lifting, then head to the park. Pretty much everyone’s agreed to work out together. The linemen, too,” Ferreira said.
In a perfect world, the Trojans had a bye this weekend.
“Then next, we were supposed to play Kahuku,” he said.
Kickoff for preseason games would have been today. One viewpoint shared by some is that the new mandate — that all student-athletes in the state’s four public high school leagues be vaccinated by Sept. 24 — should have been implemented well before this week.
“I think the timing of it is almost unreal,” Mililani wide receiver Gavin Hunter said. “I am not vaccinated right now and I wasn’t planning on getting it, but now that it’s a requirement, that changes everything. I am going to wait on it and see how this whole thing plays out.”
Another perspective is that vaccination is simply not proven to be 100-percent safe. For student-athletes who decline to be vaccinated, the alternative based on religious or medical reasons is to be tested twice a week. Crystal Medeiros Mawae is standing up for something as basic as safety.
A wife and mother, Medeiros Mawae once successfully battled through issues regarding Section 8 housing for her family.
“It is all about knowing your rights,” she said. “Doing it with respect for everyone.”
She is one of the now 5,000-plus residents who have signed a petition, “Allow Oahu High School Sports to be played,” on change.org. (As of Friday, 6 a.m., there are more than 5,500 signatures.) Doing so thrusts them into a movement to support high school student-athletes who are not vaccinated. Indirectly, the petitioners are reaffirming what more than 40 percent of Hawaii’s residents have chosen: to avoid taking the vaccine that wards off COVID-19.
“Myself and my family, we don’t feel comfortable with the vaccine because it didn’t run the proper time frame of trials. All the other vaccines from when we were baby time, there have been enough trials performed. We don’t feel safe taking the vaccine,” Medeiros Mawae said.
“Depending on where you go, it can be $100 or $125 (per test),” Medeiros Mawae said. “They’re trying to take away our voice, our rights, and get rich from doing it.”
There are student-athletes, particularly football players, who feel much the same way. Among them is standout wide receiver Keawe Andres of Leilehua.
“We’re all kind of sad, especially the seniors, thinking this is how it’s going to be. I don’t know. I just pray for the best. Maybe we have a season,” the junior said. “I’m not getting the vaccine. I’m going to take the test.”
The Mules will work out three days per week as a group on their own, Andres added.
“I talked with all the boys and we can’t just sit around and do nothing. We’ve got to stay strong and sharpen each other. Iron sharpening iron. So Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, we’ll work out and lift at our quarterback’s house,” he said. “Keep your head up and let out your anger on the team we play in seven weeks. Nothing we can control. It’s God’s plan. Maybe God wants us to sharpen more. Stay safe and keep working out.”
While student-athletes are being required to meet the mandate, non-student athletes on campus are not facing the same requirement. Some have left the state, or making plans to depart, and play in Utah, Nevada, California, Washington and other states that are rolling out fall sports on schedule despite a spike in new case numbers due to the Delta variant.
“I am not going anywhere. We made a decision as a team to stay at Kahuku in hopes for our season to not get canceled,” said Kahuku linebacker Liona Lefau, who is vaccinated. “My message to my teammates is to stay positive and use this time to work on themselves in the weight room and also on the field. Don’t lose hope!”
Hunter shares the same mindset about staying home.
“I haven’t considered transferring anywhere because we still got something to prove at Mililani. My loyalty is to my coaches and teammates,” he said.
Roosevelt standout linebacker Kaeo Akana and his teammates are gritting through yet another challenge.
“We had a meeting (Wednesday). There was some disappointment and some frustration, but nothing out of the normal,” the junior said. “Nothing changed for me. We can have several ways to look at this. We’ve chosen to see this as an opportunity to get in better condition, get stronger, get better. A second chance to get into season shape. Since we have a choice on how to look at it, I think it’s the best way.”
Ferreira is among the fall sports athletes who already got his shots.
“I would say more than half the team is vaccinated. Some of the boys on the team are kind of iffy about taking the vaccination. I’m fully vaccinated. We worked so hard already and we need it in order to play. It’s something we’ve got to do,” he said.
Petitions or no petitions, Ferreira is encouraging teammates to do whatever it takes.
“I kind of pay no mind because there’s a lot of people that go against getting the vaccination and that’s completely understandable. But if that’s the only way we can play, we have no control of it. So I would say, just get the vaccination,” he said. “For all my boys, I would say keep working. We’re going to have our time. Just don’t stop. Just keep going. Do your best. Pay no mind and move forward. That’s pretty much it.”
Those mounting up a battle against the mandate are discussing the possibility of legal action.
“There’s actually people who are doing that, putting the lawsuit together,” said local promoter and marketer Al Medeiros, no relation to Crystal Medeiros Mawae. “I was up until 2 o’clock in the morning talking to people. That’s the biggest step. We can hold our signs on the side of the road, but we have to go through the court system. We need to get it done before September, before it becomes officially mandated. It might turn into a law and become permanent.”
Medeiros has a daughter who plays high school volleyball. He has spent much of his time supporting causes close to his heart. He was one of the thousands who signed the petition.
“I fought for the Mauna, for Haleakala. I speak on a lot of different things. I compare this to Mauna Kea and this is bigger. We had 20,000 marching then, so we should have more for this,” he said. “The youth shouldn’t be penalized or given an ultimatum. The majority of our student-athletes won’t get a scholarship unless they’re playing a sport.”
The next step will be something that hasn’t happened since the pandemic began.
“I want us to stand at the schools and hospitals on Monday. I’m reaching out to everyone at the communities and schools on every island. We want the youth to be able to speak and have a voice,” Medeiros said. “All of us who impact the lives of our youth, whose jobs depend on them. I hope people keep coming together to fight this. It’s our time to fight for the youth. We’ve waited too long to fight for them.”