The six football teams in Division I of the Oahu Interscholastic Association will open their schedule on Oct. 22, one week later than originally planned.
Aiea-Kailua and Roosevelt-Waipahu games will move to the tail end of the regular-season slate, Dec. 4, rather than open on Oct. 15. Two other OIA D-I teams, Castle and Moanalua, had a bye on Oct. 15.
The delayed start is a positive in the eyes of Aiea coach Wendell Say.
“To me, it’s fine. We have some kids who got the vaccination later,” Say said.
The DOE deadline for student-athlete COVID-19 vaccinations is today. Practices will resume on Monday after more than a month of delay.
“Some parents were testing the system to see if it would happen, so they realized they had to get it, and they got it later,” Say said. “They might have to miss a game maybe, so the delay helps, I guess. With this COVID stuff, you never know. My point to the kids is we still have a season, we have to prepare for it and we have to move forward. I can’t see not having a season.”
The change does not affect the league’s Open Division and D-II teams. With only six teams in D-I, the OIA has a single round-robin slate of five regular-season games. The top two qualify for the title game with the winner advancing to the HHSAA state tournament.
There are two bye weekends for OIA D-I teams. Aiea, Kailua, Roosevelt and Waipahu have their byes late enough in the season to fit in possible crossover exhibition games or scrimmages with ILH schools.
“I know Damien had contacted me about playing. It depends. We still don’t know how many kids we’ll have. We start Monday and we’ll find out,” Say said.
Aiea had roughly 85 players combined in varsity and JV when preseason began.
“That’s a good number for our division. The ones that are turning in their (vaccination) cards, it’s still an unknown. If we don’t have the numbers, we will want to stay healthy,” Say said.
Damien, an ILH D-I football program, began league play with 28 players.
“Damien’s been playing hard. I give those kids credit. That’s the thing, the challenges you face in keeping everybody healthy, shifting everybody to play a game,” Say said.
The OIA’s requirement of vaccination, or weekly testing for players who meet the standard for a medical or religious exemption, means the league will have a safer environment for athletics than the ILH. Private schools vary in their requirements of students and student-athletes.
For now, today’s deadline for public high school student-athletes will be telling.
“Every school’s in a wait and see, how many kids are vaccinated? Are we combining the (varsity and JV) groups? We’ll find out next week, basically. When I talk to coaches, everybody’s in the same situation as us. It’s such a touchy subject with some parents,” Say said. “I don’t want to see a season cancelled again. I’d rather go through it even if a few games get cancelled. The kids last year had nothing.”