Moanalua football, volleyball, cheer teams hit Las Vegas in rare event

The Moanalua volleyball team arrived in Las Vegas where it will play three matches in three days. Photo courtesy Alan Cabanting.

Moanalua coaches Savaii Eselu, Alan Cabanting and Blossom Caballero are in Las Vegas with their respective Na Menehune football, girls volleyball and cheerleading squads.

The football team plays Sierra Vista in Spring Valley, Nev., a suburb of Las Vegas, on Friday.

The volleyball team will play one match each against three Nevada schools on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

The cheerleading team will be there rooting on the football and volleyball teams.

“We’re on route to Bishop Gorman (High School) now,” said Eselu via cell phone on Wednesday afternoon. Today and again on Thursday, his squad will practice at the home field of Nevada’s top-ranked Gaels (1-2), who lost 31-19 to Saint Louis, Hawaii’s top team, at Aloha Stadium on Friday.

“The game is the focus, but it’s also an educational trip for the boys,” Eselu added. “It was a rough start. A six-hour redeye flight. We arrived at 7:30 this morning, loaded on the bus and took a two and a half hour drive to Dixie State (St. George, Utah). We got to see the campus, the facilities, the coaches and the players. Then we made the trek back and checked in and had meetings. Now it’s off to practice at 6.

“So far, the meetings with the Dixie coaches and the strength and conditioning coach especially has been a learning experience. We’ve taken pride in training like a college team … that’s what we’ve been doing since I became the head coach. And now the boys can see I’m not lying. This is what they do at the higher level and beyond. It validates everything we do. The kids have been good about it over the course of four years. But this will help them out. They’re going to really love tomorrow.”

On Thursday, Na Menehune (3-0) — ranked No. 7 in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser Top 10 — will watch UNLV practice and tour the Rebels’ facilities before practicing at Bishop Gorman for the second day in a row.

“We’re practicing as close to game time (7 p.m. in Las Vegas; 4 p.m. Hawaii time) as possible to get used to the heat,” Eselu said. “It’s supposed to be 104 or 105 degrees at kickoff. This will be fun. But we want to take anybody on, any place, any time.”

According to Eselu, the Moanalua boys don’t need to be drilled any more about staying hydrated.

“We’ve already drilled it in — after the Leilehua game (a 24-20 win last Friday) — and they’ve been keen on loading their glass. Now it’s just a matter of getting acclimated to the weather overall.”

The Sierra Vista Mountain Lions (0-2) run a spread offense and are a lot like Division I teams — like Moanalua — in Hawaii, according to Eselu.

Tavita Seloti, a Moanalua grad, is the Sierra Vista head caoch.

“We were hoping the (quarterback Jayden) Maiava boy was still there, but he transferred to Kaimuki,” Eselu said.

Indeed, Maiava has thrown for 853 yards and 12 touchdowns for the 3-1 Bulldogs.

“We’re going to compete and do what we do,” Eselu said. “And hopefully keep the Hawaii boys streak alive. We better not drop the ball and be the first Hawaii team to lose to a team on the mainland (after last weekend’s 5-0 sweep).”

Hawaii teams are 7-4 (see list below) in 11 games against mainland teams this year, including the five wins last weekend by No. 1 Saint Louis, No. 2 Mililani, No. 3 Punahou, No. 8 Damien and Kapolei, which is just outside the Top 10.

Hawaii vs. mainland teams so far in 2019
>> Saint Louis 31, Bishop Gorman 19 (Las Vegas), at Aloha Stadium
>> At Mililani 34, Liberty (Henderson, Nev.) 22
>> At Kapolei 31, Downey (Downey, Calif.) 28
>> Punahou 45, Long Beach Poly (Long Beach, Calif.) 0, at Moorpark High field (Moorpark, Calif.)
>> Damien 56, St. Thomas More Collegiate (Burnaby, British Columbia) 14, at Skippa Diaz Stadium
>> At Kamehameha 29, Fagaitua (Pago Pago, American Samoa) 8
>> At Waialua 43, Vincent Massey (Brandon, Manitoba) 27
>> Edison (Huntington Beach, Calif.) 52, Baldwin 0, at War Memorial Stadium
>> Kwansei-Gakuin (Nishinomiya, Hyogo, Japan) 37, at King Kekaulike 20
>> Orange Glen (Escondido, Calif.) 41, Waimea 16, at Hanapepe Stadium
>> Mission Viejo 38, (Mission Viejo, Calif.) at Konawaena 14

Na Menehune has been in three razor-close games to start the season, all victories — 21-20 over ‘Iolani, 19-18 over Kailua, and 24-20 over Leilehua.

“They’ve been squeezers,” Eselu said. “The first game was won by a foot. The second was won on a pick, and the third we were hanging on for dear life.

“So, we got it right — the Open, Division I and Division II. Teams are in the right spots.”

Another treat for the Moanalua athletes will come Saturday when they attend the Arkansas at UNLV football game.

According to Eselu, there’s a buzz coming from the Las Vegas area high schools, with Moanalua’s successful public school volleyball program coming to town.

Na Menehune girls play last year’s state semifinalist Coronado Thursday, Sierra Vista on Friday (same school site as the football team), and state champion Bishop Gorman on Saturday.

“Everyone wants a piece of Moanalua volleyball,” the football coach said. “My local friends here are all saying they want to see them play. Of course, Hawaii has ‘Iolani, Punahou and Kamehameha, but Moanalua is up there when you talk about public school excellence.”

Cabanting, Moanalua’s volleyball coach, is looking forward to the three matches.

“It’s a great opportunity for these girls to be able to see soe of the top teams and the state champion from last year,” he said Wednesday night via cell phone. “We will do our best to represent Moanalua and Hawaii.”

The football team and the cheerleading squad are traveling together with about 70 athletes. The volleyball team has about 16 girls on the trip. They fly back home Sunday.

According to Moanalua athletic director Joel Kawachi, Hank Kibota and James Kim Moanalua’s first AD and principal when the school opened in 1972, are visiting Las Vegas and may be able to make it to one of the school’s games.

Moanalua principal Robin Martin also made the trip, according to Kawachi.

There are at least two other Moanalua/Las Vegas connections. Na Menehune trainer Lee Inouye is a UNLV graduate. Also, UNLV cheerleader Kamalani Newman is a former Moanalua cheerleader.

This is the first trip to the mainland and first game in the 46-year history of Moanalua football against an opponent outside the state of Hawaii.


  1. SEARIDER-DOGG September 5, 2019 2:24 am


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