12 games, 11 wins, one national championship.
Team Rager Wear swept through the 9th Grade Division of the Pylon 7v7 National Championships for the crown on Sunday in Mesquite, Nev. Coach Hana Ahn’s team defeated HCA Az Dolphins, 20-7, in the final to complete an unblemished five-game run through the tourney.
“We’re excited. We came a long way,” Ahn said on Sunday night.
In 12 total games in two tourneys over two weekends, the 9th Grade squad went 12-1.
TRW’s varsity squad, playing with the minimum seven players, reached the semifinals before losing to Heir Black, 19-13, on Sunday.
It is the second national title in as many years for the squad. Last year, the team won the 8th Grade Pylon championship in Atlanta. Again, Haven Ahn, son of the head coach, was at the controls at quarterback. His key target in the final was Kainoa “Kaikai” Carvalho, who hauled in two of TRW’s three touchdowns.
“It’s a new set of kids playing since a young age, playing since they were 4 in flag football,” Coach Ahn said. “Hawaii football is getting more competitive. Boys are picking up new tendencies, a lot more speed work and off-field training.”
Haven Ahn attends Kamehameha. His connection with Carvalho, who attends Kahuku, is uncanny even though they haven’t played together very long.
“Staying together brought us together and made a stronger connection,” said Haven Ahn, a co-captain. “Kaikai had speed and technique on them. It comes down to the fundamentals, the simple things.”
In 7v7, a QB has 4 seconds to release the ball.
“They were allowing contact, ad we were one of the most physical teams,” Haven Ahn said. “We have a lot of kids from Kahuku side, north side. Winning and playing together with new kids, too. It’s different.”
Carvalho often squared off against a 6-foot-2 defensive back.
“They have a couple of guys with offers. There’s this one guy guarding me with an offer from Arizona State,” said Carvalho, a co-captain. “I scored twice on him in the championship, but we stay humble.”
Though college coaches were not able to attend the 7×7 during the current dead period, they were on hand during a camp in Utah, where TRW began its two-week journey. The TRW ninth-grade team went 6-1 and finished second in the Level Up tournament.
Between the ninth-grade and varsity teams, three TRW players received scholarship offers: Kamehameha’s Tausili Akana (Arizona State), Kahuku’s Zealand Matagi (Northern Colorado) and Liona Lefau (Utah).
The trip included a drive from Utah to Las Vegas on Wednesday.
“It was a lot of desert,” Carvalho said of the six-hour trek. “Playing in two tournaments, for sure we got more exposure and got to play more games, have more fun. We were swimming in the pool and went shopping for a day.”
His brother, Mana, brought the Xbox.
“We had a big Madden tournament going on. Liona beat me in the championship,” Carvalho said. “He used the Rams. I used the Chiefs. He’s really good.”
The varsity team also stood out, losing just two games in the two tournaments. Mason Tufaga, a standout linebacker at Saint Louis, also saw time at quarterback. There were no reserves on the varsity roster in 110-degree temperatures.
“Haven called the (9th Grade) championship game plays while I coached the varsity,” Coach Ahn said. “We had a chance to win (the varsity semifinal) on the last drive.”
Coach Ahn credited the people who gave Team Rager Wear a big lift.
“All the families that have been supporting and putting time into the kids, the communities supporting our fundraisers, we couldn’t do this without them,” he said.
The players and families sold Krispy Kreme doughnuts and Hawaii’s Finest Chocolates, mostly in the Windward area, each weekend for a month.
“We got the plane tickets before the prices skyrocketed,” Coach Ahn said.
When the team returns to Oahu on Monday night, the mandatory 14-day quarantine goes into effect.
“Our kids wanted this. They want to excel. They called meetings and did their own workouts when we didn’t practice,” said Ahn, who wide receivers and slotbacks for Damien’s intermediate team.
Team Rager Wear 14, Evolve Black 0
Team Rager Wear 20, HCA Az Dolphins 12
Team Rager Wear 26, PA Nike Elite – Red 15U 12
Team Rager Wear 13, PA Nike Elite – Red 15U 0
Team Rager Wear 20, HCA Az Dolphins 7
Team Rager Wear 24, Showtime Elite 0
Heir Black 14, Team Rager Wear 12
Team Rager Wear 26, Team Elite Proway 18
Team Rager Wear 19, Team Elite Proway 0
Team Rager Wear 26, EForce Oregon Breed 19
Kahekili Koi Pa‘ao‘ao
Coach Hanalei Ahn
Assistant Coach Brandyn Akana
Assistant Coach Stu Carvalho