Hawaii public school athletes to resume official practice after season delayed due to vaccine mandate

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Hawaii student-athletes are getting ready to officially begin practice on Friday, Sept. 24, but the delay of the season posed some challenges for the players.

November 2019 was the last time Kahuku’s Red Raiders played on the football field, and in 2021, they had to wait a little longer. The governor pushed back the season for more than a month in order for student-athletes and coaches to be up to date with the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

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Kahuku senior, quarterback and captain Jason Mariteragi said he and the other captains had to pivot quickly in order to not fall behind with training.

Mariteragi said, “We had a meeting the day they announced that the season was being postponed, and the captains, we just told the team we’re still going to be out here.” 

The players continued practicing on their own, with coaches hands-off, as they followed the rules from the Department of Education.

As for private schools, they are already into their season.

“I’m not going to lie, we’re jealous, we’re jealous that ILH schools got to be practicing and playing at this time, and we — the OIA schools and public school — are just waiting, waiting our turn,” Kahuku High School Head Coach Sterling Carvalho said. “But yet it makes us better, better with our patience. Hopefully, we can persevere and overcome.”

Coach Carvalho said the majority of players are vaccinated against the coronavirus, with a few getting exemptions approved. Students who are exempt from the vaccine will be tested for COVID twice a week in order to participate. However, there are some players who opted out completely.

Carvalho said, “We lost some players to the mainland, we don’t fault the player or the families from doing so, they got burnt last year, and they didn’t want it happen again.”  

The Red Raiders are hoping to make it to the state championship once again, but that is also been pushed back to sometime near Christmas. The Hawaii High School Athletic Association Executive Director Christopher Chun said those plans are still being worked on.

“If we’re allowed to have fans, we can’t play at Aloha Stadium,” Chun said. “If we’re not allowed to have fans, maybe we will be able to go to the stadium and have that experience, so we’re planning for different contingencies.”

Either way, the players said they have chills thinking about finally seeing those Friday night lights beam once again.

Mariteragi said, “We feel excited, I just feel anxious to get back on the field, it’s been a long time.”  

Find more COVID-19 news: cases, vaccinations on our Coronavirus News page

The Kahuku High School football team will face off against Kapolei High School on Friday, October 15.

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