The first snap will put almost everything into perspective.
That’s the long, winding path the Trench Dawgz are on. It leads to the Southwest, where they will play the Sin City Legendz on Saturday. Kickoff in Bullhead City, Ariz., is set for 5 p.m. The game will be streamed live on YouTube. It has been a long drought for both teams. Players in both Hawaii and Nevada were not allowed to play high school football since the fall of 2019.
The Legendz were born out of need when Clark County, home to Las Vegas, ruled that public schools would not allow the return of football for the spring season — the same circumstances faced by Hawaii football players. Their coach is Richard Dax Sanchies.
For the Trench Dawgz, the offseason began with daily workouts in a homemade weight room, runs in Pauoa Valley, weekend pre-dawn workouts at Ala Moana Beach Park. Just a core group of linemen training and dreaming. Finding competition wasn’t so simple.
A scheduled showcase-style game with Winner Circle Athletics in California was cancelled, or forfeited, when the state reopened football for high school spring season. A potential scrimmage with Hawaii’s four-time defending state champion, Saint Louis, also fell by the wayside.
But it hasn’t been all trench reps and no action. There was a tri-scrimmage with MBC Athletics and Mill Vill Trojans. Last weekend, the Dawgz played MBC Athletics in a JPS Oahu League preseason battle. MBC won, 14-13, stopping a two-point conversion attempt in the final minutes. The Dawgz left Honolulu on Tuesday and had a workout with 702 Blessed after landing in Las Vegas.
Every iota of video helps.
“Whether they admit or not, we’re there to capture these moments for our guys,” Trench Dawgz coach Whitley Fehoko said. “It all comes down to the film. Our guys will never get exposure until the film gets out there. All these guys playing on the mainland, the offers are coming because of the film.”
When the Open Division private school teams began formal workouts for exhibition games, the Dawgz lost some new additions.
“After the Winner Circle forfeit, all our Saint Louis and Punahou guys left. We were left with our Roosevelt and Kaimuki guys. After the three-way scrimmage, we were getting calls from college coaches and people around the island,” Fehoko said.
Saint Louis chose to scrimmage with Mill Vill, and when Kamehameha opted out of a scrimmage last weekend, Saint Louis and Mill Vill met for a second scrimmage.
In the process of meeting requirements to play a high school program like Saint Louis, the Dawgz have become more formalized. Insured.
“Our guys got up at 5 in the morning, worked out and after that, we delivered shirts,” Fehoko said of a recent fundraiser to pay for insurance. “We had to get the insurance that Monday. That’s how desperate we are to play. Anybody.”
There was some hope of a scrimmage with Punahou.
“They backed away early, but they didn’t put us on a chase,” Fehoko said.
There is, naturally, plenty of respect between the linemen and their coaches.
“Mike and Rob (Crowell) have done a great job with their guys. The Saint Louis trench can get down. They worked with their kids throughout the pandemic. They made their kids better,” Fehoko said. “I said, ‘Coach, we appreciate you,’ and he said, ‘No, we appreciate you.’ “
Early plans for the Las Vegas trip included a possible game with 702 Blessed, which is stocked with Liberty players. Former Hawaii and Roosevelt standout Chad Kapanui is a coach with Liberty and 702 Blessed.
The game didn’t happen, but a combined workout did. Navigating through the details of a game in Clark County, where public high schools were forbidden from playing games this spring, is much more challenging than a workout.
It also becomes a Catch-22. Not many club teams are eager to face the Dawgz offensive line. At 6 feet, 7 inches and 340 pounds, sophomore Iapani “Poncho” Laloulu has been pumping iron and running the streets nonstop for more than a year. He also had a 3.8 grade-point average last quarter.
“I think Poncho is a reason a lot of teams don’t want to play us. Guys were getting up real slow,” said Fehoko, a former Farrington and San Diego State O-lineman. “You want Nick Saban to see this?”
Across the board, from Kaeo Akana to Lilio Kaluna, Fehoko is proud of their academic work.
“Our running back, the hottest guy on the board is Lilio Kaluna. He presses three plates, and he’s a 4.0 student,” he said. “Academics should already be considered. We can’t send you to college on a 2.0.”
Ultimately, in Fehoko’s vision, Trench Dawgz will be a pipeline. There will be the highest level of trust from recruiters.
“We want a system where there is a D-I pipeline,” Fehoko said. “We don’t have to be going up (to the mainland).”
TrenchDawgz🐾 vs 702 Blessed/Liberty Trenches
Anthem Hills Field
— TrenchDawgz (@TrenchDawgz) April 22, 2021
Working out in Vegas, getting ready to battle on Sat. My 1st game since 2019 so blessed to play with the Trench Dawgz. Kickoff here hits crossbar. @NickRolovich @CoachKyleKrantz @CoachOmura @NickOmoso @TrenchDawgz @PupulePaul @HawaiiPrepWorld @HawaiiRecruits pic.twitter.com/gjqi6lv0aB
— Kyler Halvorsen (@KylerH808) April 23, 2021