Depending on who knows who, there was or was not discussion within the Oahu Interscholastic Association about the most current issue: Would student-athletes be permitted to play one sport in two separate seasons and states in the coming academic year?
That was a question for Kahuku running back Zealand Matagi, who had his eyes on Utah powerhouse Skyridge. Former Kamehameha quarterback Kia‘i Keone transferred there in late July and is on the roster.
Matagi, a Star-Advertiser All-State selection, decided to stay home and wait for the football season in early 2021 rather than transfer to Utah, which is playing on the field this fall — and forsake his senior season at Kahuku. Hawaii’s high school football season and other higher/moderate risk sports were pushed back to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I would go only if they let me play two seasons,” Matagi said. “Other than that, I’m staying.”
In 13 games last year, Matagi rushed for 1,418 yards on 240 carries and scored 19 touchdowns on the ground for Kahuku. He has one Division I scholarship offer, from Northern Colorado. Kahuku reached the Open Division state final, falling to nationally ranked Saint Louis.
Another Kahuku player, senior linebacker Alan Talanoa, has already transferred to Utah. The Utah prep season is scheduled to kick off tonight, though one football game has already been canceled. The Weber-Bingham contest was called off on Wednesday after three Bingham players tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. Three other schools also have positive tests.
Several OIA athletic directors confirmed that a possible change or exemption to the transfer rule was not discussed at the league’s meeting on Wednesday. However, a few parents and players have said they heard otherwise. Either way, the result is that any student-athlete from Hawaii who plays a postponed sport — football, girls volleyball, competitive cheer, cross country — in another state this fall will not be eligible to play the same sport upon return to the islands in the winter or spring.
If the OIA and Hawaii High School Athletic Association had revamped its rule — adopted after April Atuaia transferred from Orem, Utah, to play back-to-back basketball seasons at Kahuku in 2000 — Kahuku all-state defensive lineman/running back Zion Ah You would have reconsidered if permitted to play in Utah and Hawaii.
“I don’t know if I would go if they said that,” Ah You said, referring to a surprising change in rule. “But I’m not scared of getting the virus because I feel like I’m strong and healthy enough to fight it.”
Ah You would have landed with family in Orem and played for the Tigers, a three-time defending state championship squad.
“My cousin is playing,” Ah You said. “His family isn’t too worried. They don’t have any elderly living with them.”
The Red Raiders are looking forward to getting back in the weight room on campus soon. However, with record daily case numbers — 335 on Thursday in Hawaii — nothing is guaranteed. If doors open, Kahuku will operate hybrid and online-only learning systems, Ah You noted. He has been busy working out, just not on campus.
“I doubt the weight room will be open anytime soon,” he said.
What’s the harm in letting kids play football in the mainland and then in Hawaii in the same year?
It’s not like their going to do it every year, it’s a Pandemic year, a special occasion!