It wasn’t an easy decision, but Anuenue’s football season is over. Na Koa will finish the campaign with an 0-9 overall record of which only one loss came on the field.
Head coach Kelii Pio Adams confirmed Friday afternoon that the team — at a meeting with players, parents, coaches and administrators Thursday night – has decided to forfeit the remaining games on its schedule due to having just 13 healthy players on the roster.
Despite the unfortunate turn of events for the school on 10th Avenue in Palolo, Adams, who has the support of principal Glen Miyasato, thinks there will be a rebirth of sorts next season at the junior varsity level. As a matter of fact, Na Koa will not field a varsity team next season to focus on the JVs.
“We have 10 ninth-graders and our AD (Lapule Schultz) assured us that they can play JV next season,” Adams said. “And we expect 15 kids coming up from eighth grade along with eight (freshmen) who didn’t want to play varsity this year. I am the middle school PE teacher and have been working with those kids interested in playing football. Their parents thought about going to another school if we were only going to have a varsity team next year.”
Na Koa had 21 players for its season-opening 62-0 loss to St. Francis, and they suffered a bunch of injuries in that game and have not played a real contest since.
Recently, according to Adams, six players from Halau Ku Mana (a school in Manoa that is allowed to send its athletes to the Anuenue football team) walked away from the team, leaving 15 players on the roster.
Of the 15 remaining, two are injured, four are seniors, one is a junior, one is a sophomore and nine are freshmen.
“We had a lot of upset parents (at the meeting, when it was decided that this year’s team is done playing games),” Adams said. “We really couldn’t do anything about it. It’s what we needed to do, with the low numbers and injuries.”
According to Miyasato, the principal, the meeting was a fruitful one.
“The football team is close to his (Adams’) heart,” Miyasato said. “He wants to establish a stronger foundation and he outlined his plan and his vision for that. There was a lot of frustration expressed, but a lot of questions were answered. His first priority is the health and safety of the players. He took everything to heart and listened to everyone’s voice.”
Na Koa is still practicing, but not with full pads.
“We’re not hitting anymore,” Adams said. “We’re running with helmets and it’s keeping the kids busy and out of trouble.”
Another reason the team is still practicing is for three seniors — who have expressed a desire to play in college — to stay in shape. The three are 6-foot-6, 285-pound offensive tackle/defensive end Kaleo Gaspar, 5-9 defensive back/wide receiver Kuhio Kaaehuahiwi, and 5-8, 160-pound defensive back/wide receiver AJ Grace-Kekawa.
Adams said those three seniors may try to play at the Division II college level on the West Coast.