The Kaiser varsity football team is planning to play some games this season, but how many is a question that has not been answered yet.
Principal Justin Mew, after a meeting of parents and coaches, said in a statement late Friday night that the Cougars’ season will be modified.
According to Lindsay Chambers, a Department of Education spokesperson, 19 players were at official varsity tryouts this week and several of them were deemed ineligible.
“Due to a shortage of varsity football players for the 2017 season, Kaiser High School will be having a modified season in order to participate in the OIA league,” Mew said in the statement. “The determination was made by myself, athletic director Nelson Chee and the coaching staff. When faced to make the call between Kaiser’s honored tradition of competitive football and the risk of student safety, our students’ well-being is the priority. Every effort will be made by the Cougar varsity program to allow growth and training throughout this season to continue to build a strong program at Kaiser. At this point in time, the junior varsity football team does have the numbers to safely develop a competitive season and will move forward as planned.”
Mew did not go into the specifics about what he meant by a modified season.
One parent who was at the meeting, however, said a situation in which Kaiser would play just three games was discussed. Jessica Tafao, the mother of two players on the Cougars varsity team, said that one possible outcome is that the Cougars play games against Aiea, Moanalua and Radford.
When asked neither Mew nor Chee could confirm that that specific plan was discussed.
Arnold Martinez, the Kaiser varsity head coach, could not be reached for comment.
Another onlooker at the meeting who did not want to be identified said that Kaiser still has a varsity team and that decisions would be made week to week on whether games can be played.
“The meeting (which was held at 7 p.m. on Friday at the school’s library) was about safety,” he said. “The coaches and administration wanted us to know about the low numbers and that no final decision was made. If the (roster) numbers go below the safety threshhold, then the school would make a decision at that time. I don’t think they would want to put 11 kids against Waianae’s 90.”
Tafao, who was contacted by phone, did not hesitate to show her displeasure.
“These are adults who are supposed to be shaping kids’ futures by way of football, and I think they’ve completely dropped the ball,” she said. “A lot of players have been working hard in the summer and some of them have been at it since last season ended. Everyone in charge is acting like their hands are tied.”
A year ago, Kaiser had just 28 varsity players and played against many of the top teams in the state. Less than 19 players is a whole different story.
“Tryout week is over,” said one parent close to the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity. “This is the reality: There are low numbers. But nothing is set in stone. I understand the safety concerns.”
If what Tafao said about Kaiser playing just three games comes to fruition, then the Cougars would play home games on their brand-new artificial turf field against Radford (Aug. 19) and Moanalua (Sept. 22) and at Aiea (Sept. 8). That would mean the following games would be forfeited: at Roosevelt (Aug. 4), vs. Mililani (Aug. 11), at Campbell (Sept. 1), at Kahuku (Sept. 16), and vs. Waianae (Sept. 30).
“A lot of parents were going for that plan,” she said.
There was no word on whether the Kaiser varsity would play in a scheduled scrimmage this Thursday at Kaimuki.