In 2019 when Molokai wrapped up their 5th straight MIL 8-man league title, no one would have guessed it would be nearly three years until the Farmers would play a full football season.
2020 season was lost due to the pandemic. 2021 was missed because the other 8-man programs did not field teams, so Molokai settled for one scrimmage against King Kekaulike in which the program says unofficially was their first win versus a 11-man team. Finally, this season the Farmers will play a full schedule of games, including against OIA DII’s Waialua on Saturday.
The boys from the Friendly Isle opened 2022 with a 41-6 win over Lanai, but the outcome was nearly the footnote. The return of football was the headline.
“That got my heart pumping. I was excited. I really wanted to play,” senior quarterback Kahiwa Augustiro told KHON2’s Alan Hoshida, “I got all the butterflies out. Didn’t have a crowd like that in a very long time.”
“I’m just really excited that we’re back on the field and we get to challenge other teams. It is special to me and to coaches. We have to work long time, long time, last year work hard just to play one game. I feel its special to us,” senior defensive lineman Dominic Lee-Weeks added.
Head coach Mike Kahale said, “Our program has meant a lot to our community, to our kids. It’s just been great to restart and have the interest back, to have the boys out here, playing a game that they love and being productive with their time. It’s been really cool.”
Kahale says the teams is doing whatever they can to make up for a couple lost season, but there is no hiding the lack of development during the last couple of years. He and his coaches have had to reinstall the fundamentals to the team.
“We’re starting back at square one. Our seniors now were freshman the last time that we played. There is a void in skill development and leadership, so it’s taken a while to put the wheels back on the bus, but I think we’re moving in the right direction.”
Molokai plays Waialua on Saturday at 10 am on O’ahu which adds another challenge to already inexperienced group. The Farmers need to change their entire schemes both offensively and defensively just for this one week, because it is a full 11-man contest.
“As a coaching staff, we have to keep it simple. There are a whole lot of things we want to do scheme wise offensively and defensively, but we don’t want to confuse the kids,” Kahale said, “so how do we best transition easily from 8 to 11? That limits us in terms of what we want to do because we’re just planning for one game. We can’t throw the whole book at them.”
“8-man I play d-line and now I’m playing defensive end. There is much more running, much harder,” Lee-Weeks said of moving positions for this weekend.
“Biggest difference is how much people are on the field because there is not as much room as there is in 8-man when you’re running the ball,” dual-threat QB Augustiro added.
Despite missing two seasons, football on Molokai continues to trend in the right direction. Coach Kahale has around 50 players on the team, same as pre-pandemic. He started a middle school football program that will hopefully help develop players at a younger age, so that they can better compete with larger schools in hopes of one day making the transition full-time to the 11-man game.
“It will give us the opportunity to play the game the way it was intended to play. I think it will be a little more exciting. We’ll be competing with bigger teams. We’re a small school, right so, we have to be careful that we didn’t jump too early then get our butts whooped and not the kids don’t want to play. We have to build the momentum here.”