Yeah, yeah, you could say McKinley sucks, but it wouldn’t be true.
The Tigers came, they saw and they got blitzed. They left the North Shore on Friday night with their heads held high. No complaining.
They played out of their league, so to speak, and paid the price. Kahuku beat them 78-0. But remember, the scoreboard is only one thing.
The fans never gave up. Aside from a few plays where they looked a bit befuddled, the Tigers players never gave up, either.
In reality, the team that showed up at Carleton Weimer Field had no business being there. It was like an All-Star team against a rag-tag bunch. The Tigers would be way better off playing in Division II for now. There, they could compete.
That’s not a knock on McKinley (0-4, 0-3 Oahu Interscholastic Association Red). Head coach Sam Cantiberos, in his first year, spoke after the game about six starters who were injured or on academic probation. Later on, in a text, he mentioned that he had forgotten about two other starters missing. That makes eight. He talked about a quarterback (Elyjah Badua), a running back/linebacker (Darren Lafaele), a defensive back, and a right guard among the missing.
Cantiberos also talked about building a football culture. That want-to attitude was front and center when one of his (unidentified) assistants was whooping it up early in the game after two solid defensive plays as if the Tigers had just won the Super Bowl.
Cantiberos also intimated that he decided to keep his commitment to the game (with just 27 on the roster) because the players wanted to play. They did not want to forfeit. They wanted to come all the way to Kahuku, no matter the result, and … eventually they got pummeled.
Even Kahuku athletic director Gillian Yamagata was impressed with McKinley’s demeanor and the spirit of the crowd and the band.
“They didn’t have a bad attitude at all,” she said. “And I loved it when their band was fighting playfully against our band.”
When the game was well in hand, one McKinley fan shouted, “We love you Tigers. No matter if you are winning or losing, we’re still together with you.”
The fans are behind the team. And, if you think about it, maybe the tough part is over. Maybe the injured and academically challenged players will be back. It’s not easy to go against No. 1 Mililani (a 73-14 loss) and No. 4 Kahuku.
Well, the schedule does get a bit easier, but not much — No. 9 Waianae, Kaiser, Leilehua and Castle are next.
This is where the McKinley pride will come in the most. This is where, as Cantiberos calls it, “the culture” of football could begin to expand at the school.
The hardest part is likely over.
Against Kahuku, Cantiberos said the players “Had fun, got experience and never gave up.”
That’s at least three positives out of a complete mismatch.