Just like that, Hawaii and California are renewing their bond — and friendly rivalry — on the gridiron.
Football training group Trench Dawgz has agreed to travel and meet Winner Circle Athletics, a rising football club in Southern California, in a “college showcase.” The combine and game are tentatively scheduled for March, Trench Dawgz Coach Whitley Fehoko said.
Fehoko, a former Farrington standout, has trained the group of linemen for years. They have worked continuously through the COVID-19 pandemic, and have reaped rewards. Former Trench Dawg Faaope Laloulu was a standout offensive lineman at St. Francis and Farrington before signing with Oregon earlier this year. His younger brother, sophomore lineman Poncho Laloulu of Farrington, has three offers already. Defensive end Kaeo Akana of Roosevelt has a dozen offers as a junior despite the cancellation of the Oahu Interscholastic Association fall and winter sports seasons.
Others, like Roosevelt’s Jackie Johnson III, have earned opportunities through offseason events on the mainland. Johnson signed with Lawrence Tech last week. Others, like Punahou standout defensive end Tevarua Tafiti, have also spent weeks and months running and weight training with the Dawgz, as well as going one-on-one at the beach.
The consistent posting of training and on-field workout videos by island players, including Trench Dawgz, on social media has made a difference, as well.
Trench Dawgz, a mix of players from across Oahu, has drawn more athletes in recent weeks — with a broader range of positions — as they hit the sand in the early morning every weekend.
“It was more of the highly recruited players that wanted to work with the Trench Dawgz, that’s when I realized we have a team,” he said, noting players like Kaimuki quarterback Jayden Maiava. “Jayden came to a 6 a.m. workout. I’m like, we could just make a team.”
That same day, Fehoko added, he read about California’s situation. No high school football. Players and parents joining Winner Circle and playing on a privately-owned field. The recent lifting of the stay-at-home order by the state of California doesn’t hurt.
“I saw Winner Circle’s success. I can do that, too. I hit up Jordan (Campbell) and Patrick (Foley). I’ve got the best guys in the state. They were all for it. They didn’t even hesitate,” Fehoko said.
The good news gets around quickly. Within hours of Fehoko’s announcement on social media, his phone began buzzing off the hook.
“The next day, I had 30, 35 kids (working out) and I was trying to social distance them,” Fehoko said. “Tons of kids and parents hit me up in the past 48 hours. It’s been crazy.”
He has added more coaches to work with the growing roster.
“We’ve got pods going, separating interior guys from other position groups. It’s not one big cluster. Guys out there with the hand sanitizers and sprays. We’re trying to do our best. The kids have been understanding that this is their last shot. Get in, get out, practice is no more than one hour, and then we coaches evaluate,” Fehoko said.
The details of a mainland road trip for any island football team are many. Fehoko said there will be many experienced hands on deck, including former St. Francis Coach Kip Akana, who is part of the Dawgz staff.
“This week, I think we’re going to get into the logistics of everything, including testing,” Fehoko said.
He is enthused, yet cautious about Monday afternoon.
“The turnout is going to be big today. We’re only going to take 35, 40 at the most. We’re trying to do a combine thing the day before (the game). Most likely, there will be scouts there. There’s almost nothing else going on, so the college recruiters are going to be salivating,” Fehoko said. “It’s thanks to Jordan Campbell and Winner Circle, seeing him go against the grain, pump out these Mater Dei and Bosco kids. These kids put their trust in Jordan Campbell.”