The history of Polynesians venturing to the Northwest goes back a long way, dating at least back to the fur trade of the 19th century.
The migration since includes a new chapter that includes several island players in Washington state, including Kahuku’s Liona Lefau, Zion Ah You, Zealand Matagi, Leonard Ah You and Waika Crawford now at Sammamish High School (Bellevue, Wash.) this spring. Last fall, several Hawaii student-athletes transferred to mainland schools, including a few from Kahuku
Sammamish plays in the state’s 2A classification. The top level is 4A.
Lefau, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound linebacker, got a big bonus with an offer from Michigan on Wednesday. The sophomore also has offers from Maryland, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.
“I spoke with Coach (George) Helow and Coach Shaun Nua. It was nice and quick. They like my film,” Lefau said on Thursday afternoon after practice. “Coach Shawn said they want some Polynesians up there. He said he needs some headbangers.”
The Kahuku crew went to the Northwest in February as it became more likely that Hawaii would cancel its already postponed football season. Kahuku’s loss is Sammamish’s gain. All but Crawford, a starting quarterback, are playing both ways and special teams. Matagi and Zion Ah You are seniors. Crawford and Leonard Ah You are sophomores.
Lefau is doubling at wide receiver while playing linebacker and staying on the field for all special team units except kickoff coverage. Sammamish has a four-game league schedule and is already 2-0 following a 43-14 win over Foster and a 63-6 win over Interlake. There will be no playoffs.
“We’re blowing out everyone here right now, so hopefully our guys get more exposure,” Lefau said. “I’m returning kicks, too. I almost took one to the house.”
The games have been streamed live.
“A lot of people in Hawaii tried to watch and it froze. I don’t think it was built for a lot of people,” Lefau said.
In addition to Lefau’s double duty, Ah You is playing left guard along with his normal defensive tackle spot. Matagi, one of the top senior running backs in Hawaii, is doubling as a safety. Ah You is playing WR in addition to inside linebacker.
Lefau said another Kahuku Red Raider, Cole Pruett, is at Monroe High School, also in Washington. Elsewhere, Campbell junior quarterback Blaine Hipa is now on the roster at Chandler (Ariz.).
At Sammamish, classes are 100 percent online, so the only time Lefau and his teammates see friends from school is at practice. There is no face-to-face learning requirement to play sports.
“It’s weird. We’ve just got to get used to not using Google. They use Microsoft Teams here,” he said.
In addition, COVID-19 restrictions mean no access to the school weight room and locker room.
The Red Raider transplants are neighbors of Miki Ah You, Zion’s older brother, who is playing football at Washington.
“Zion’s whole family moved here,” Lefau said.
Hawaii, he added, is missed.
“I miss the weather. The warmest it gets here is the 50s. When it gets cold, it’s freezing. 30s or 20s, and it’s windy,” he said.
The head coach at Sammamish is Rylan Akana, brother of Kahuku boys basketball coach Brandyn Akana. The new experience beats staying in Hawaii and playing no games, Lefau said, but he is hoping for a change in the islands.
“We’re just staying positive through this COVID. Hopefully, we can play this fall. If not, guys will make the move. Hawaii is the one state not playing football,” he said. “I’m hoping they understand that losing two years is too much. One year, that’s enough.”