There’s a buzz in the Lanai community about 8-man football, but it’s not coming from the high school.
The community is starting with a pass league team this fall, but Lanai High School assistant athletic director Merill Taguchi said he hasn’t heard anything about an 8-man team yet.
Unlike other programs statewide that have struggled to field 11-man teams — Kohala and Ka‘u folded teams this year, and Anuenue and Roosevelt have forfeited at least once — the 8-man game is growing.
The MIL is in its second season of 8-man football as a sanctioned sport. Hana, Molokai, St. Anthony and defending champion Seabury Hall were last year’s charter members.
Ka‘u, on the Big Island, is also in its first season of 8-man football. The Trojans defeated Kealakehe’s junior-varsity team 28-12 over the weekend. The Trojans have already hosted defending MIL champion Seabury Hall, a game the Spartans won 32-20.
Ka‘u is also planning to play at Molokai this season. BIIF executive director Lyle Crozier hopes two more teams sprout to form an 8-man league there.
It would take a minimum of three leagues playing 8-man for the HHSAA to sanction it as a state-championship sport.
On Lanai, the future is bright even if no 8-man team hits the field in the coming new year. The Lanai Nakoa Rams Pop Warner (PeeWee) team is 1-2 with a home win over the Kahului Ali‘i last week. This is the first full season for the team in the Maui Pop Warner league. The game against Kahului was their first home game after five seasons of playing a partial schedule.
Underlying the optimism, though, is the issue of fundraising for increasing costs. Travel. Equipment. Football is the big budget-eater, but they’re finding ways to get it done in other small communities. Stay tuned.