A buzz was generated last week when the ILH released the 2021 football schedule painting a nearly complete picture of the Oahu slate starting in August.
The schedule release provided players and coaches an opportunity to circle dates on the calendar for the first time in nearly two years, where after the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled the 2020 season, new Moanalua head coach Vince Nihipali who took the job just prior to the first lockdown anxiously awaits his first chance to lead Na Menehune.
“It’s been pretty hectic like everything else in the world. I got the job and then it was shut down like two days later. I’m just glad that things seem to be moving forward and we’re going to start going again real soon but we’ve been going at it for 17 weeks now so it’s exciting. It’s something new at this point but it’s been a long time coming,” Nihipali told KHON2 Sports Director Rob DeMello.
Since the announcement of the schedule which currently has Moanalua playing their first division one interleague game against Damien on August 14, Nihipali says that a clear uptick in energy has been visible during offseason conditioning as players can feel that football games are finally just around the corner.
“When I released the scheduled to the boys last week there was an energetic practice. They were jacked up about it. It was pretty cool. Now that it’s real it seems like now they’ve kind of turned it up a little bit which is good,” said Nihipali. “It’s been exciting. Anytime you release something that kids can look forward to, it always helps.”
For Nihipali and Na Menehune, offseason conditioning will continue to ramp up in the coming days as training camp will open on July 19 ahead of the season starting statewide on the weekend of August 5.
“I think that first game, that first kickoff is going to be pretty crazy for everybody. Not just the kids but the coaches, the parents, the administration, everybody. It’s been so long, a year and a half of kind of fiddling your thumbs and waiting to see what’s going on. It’s good to have something you can kind of go towards and I think everyone is going to be excited.”
According to the HHSAA recently, the state government and the department of health will need to provide a final green light to finalize football games getting started in August, however, many close to the situation are confident that kickoff will not be delayed, as Nihipali feels that when players get onto the field we will see a passion for the game perhaps unlike we have ever seen before.
“I think it’s going to be really important that everyone gets to see how hard these kids have worked during this time frame. In school has been a challenge for them, socially has been a challenge for them because they haven’t been around the guys all that often, so just the appreciation for what the kids have gone through and the assistant coaches. What those guys give is just as important or more important to what I do. I just kind of try to lead the way and let the coaches do their thing and so it’s going to be exciting. I think everyone is going to be pretty happy with what they see on the field. They’re going to be working hard, they’re going to play with passion, and I can see it already. They just got to channel everything to the right direction and let the chips fall where they may.”