The festivities following Nanakuli’s final home game of the season had the feel of graduation night.
So although the Golden Hawks have three games left in the regular season, there was a sense of nostalgia for head coach Keala Watson after 21 seniors were recognized for their contributions to the program.
“This is a special class,” Watson said as lei-covered players posed for photos with friends and family.
“These guys have played Nanakuli football for five years rather than just four. They were with us the first year we started our intermediate program for our school, so these guys have bene with us since they were eighth grade.”
Watson’s connection with some of the seniors goes back even further. He’s first met a few members of the class in his first job as an elementary school educational assistant after graduating from the University of Hawaii.
“So there’s some history going back,” Watson said. “These guys were just little babies when I first saw them, now they’re men.”
The on-field growing pains continued in the Golden Hawk’s transition to Division I and they closed their home schedule with a 42-0 loss to No. 8 Mililani to fall to 0-5 overall and 0-4 in the OIA Red.
Mililani scored on its second possession of the game, but the Nanakuli defense managed to force two missed field goal attempts that kept the Hawks close until the Trojans eventually pulled away.
“Offensively we struggled a little, we still have to find our way on offense,” Watson said after Mililani held Nanakuli to 34 yards in total offense. “Defense gave us something to look forward to.”
Nanakuil next faces Farrington at Ticky Vasconcellos Stadium on Saturday and close the regular season with games at Castle (Sept. 23) and Kapolei (Sept. 30).
“The season isn’t over yet. Every week we see big improvement,” Watson said. “We’re not satisfied with losing, we definitely want to win, but the improvement we see every week is something we can at least build on.”
The senior class contributed to that foundation while helping spur Nanakuli’s ascent to Division I by in a 17-4 run the previous two years in Division II to earn a promotion this season. While the hunt for that first Division I win continues, the Hawks soaked in one more chance to play on their home field.
“It means a lot. It’s another opportunity for us to come out this season, represent our community and just ball out,” senior linebacker Chyson Hoopai said, “for yourself, for your family and especially the name that’s on your jersey. It just represents everybody, because everybody thinks Nanakuli is a bad place, but we just have to prove them wrong, This is a beautiful valley.”