Lights, camera, football.
Tonight, for the first time in state history, an official high school eight-player football game will take place when Seabury Hall faces Molokai at 6:30 at War Memorial Stadium.
The Maui Interscholastic League's inaugural weekend of eight-player games, the product of a few years of development, will conclude Saturday when St. Anthony plays at Hana, with kickoff at noon.
Kobe-John Kahalehoe is part of Hana High School’s first football team — the Dragons will play their inaugural game on Saturday against St. Anthony.
RICH YOUNG photo
"We have always been excited about football for the past two years and we have prepared like everything has been legitimate and real," Molokai coach Mike Kahale said. "But this year there has definitely been some extra excitement - the opportunity to play at War Memorial, Friday night lights, with the crowd, in that venue. The kids are just pumped for this weekend.
"To be quite honest, it was kind of rough in the beginning, to get the kids to execute and run the plays correctly, but this past week things have been clicking on all cylinders. We feel really confident."
The Farmers and Trojans have played football before. Molokai had four-game seasons in 1960 and 1961 before giving up the sport due to expenses. St. Anthony fielded teams from 1943 to 2008, when dwindling enrollment sent the Trojans to the sidelines.
MIL eight-player football schedule
Seabury Hall vs. Molokai at War Memorial Stadium, 6:30 p.m.
St. Anthony at Hana, noon
St. Anthony vs. Seabury Hall at War Memorial Stadium, 6:30 p.m.
This weekend marks the official beginning of the sport for Hana, and for Seabury Hall, which sent players to Pac-3 teams made up primarily of St. Anthony athletes for a few years. Unofficial scrimmages and jamborees have been held the last two seasons.
The Farmers appear to be the favorites in the inaugural eight-player season, in which each team will play six games.
"I'm sure that is based on last year and our performance," Kahale said. "We were good last year, we had a good group of boys, but a lot of them were seniors. Athletic talent is very cyclical and we lost some key guys. We have a young team this year, eight freshmen out there, three of which are starting. So, these guys are new, but they are excited, they have a lot of talent and we are just hoping they can fill their roles. We won't know until that first game, but we feel real good."
The Farmers' quarterback duties will be shared by junior Noah Caparida and freshman Ena Victorino, according to Kahale. Dhavin Spencer-Basa, the state runner-up at 285 pounds in wrestling earlier this year, leads both lines and has drawn interest from college programs after attending camps over the summer.
This week, the Farmers raised goal posts on their field in Hoolehua across the street from the school's gym.
"It looks like a football field now - two big, monstrous, wide goal posts with the flags on top telling us the direction of the wind," Kahale said. "People driving by are rubbernecking, looking at what's going on. I feel like we have been legit for a couple years, but being a sanctioned high school sport in the MIL, having those goal posts up, really adds a lot of legitimacy to what we have been doing."
Clearly, football fever has hit the Friendly Isle.
"We should be bringing some guys over there to Maui," Kahale said. "There is a good community there from Molo-kai, but we have a bunch of parents and friends coming over from Molokai to watch the game."
The players know the significance of today's game as well.
"It makes us proud, all the people before us who didn't get this opportunity are now rooting for us," said Kimo Gonzales, a junior center and middle linebacker.
In Hana, where the high school student population is 78, the coach is Kenneth McNickle, a former college player at Nebraska-Omaha who grew up with small-town football in Wa-mego, Kan. The 29-year-old has lived in Hana for four years.
"From what I have seen in Hawaii, Hana is about as strong a Hawaiian community as you can come by, that natural warrior mentality, that strong mentality," McNickle said. "The family mentality is really, really strong here, too, so the boys have really come together as a family unit, as a brotherhood. The whole community is standing by them. I would be surprised if not every single person on the east side of Maui shows up this Saturday."
The eight-player game has three linemen, and two receivers must also be on the line of scrimmage at the snap. The field is 100 yards long and the rest of the rules are also similar to the 11-player game.
Introducing the sport gives four more schools the chance to have football as part of homecoming festivities - that will be the case for Hana on Saturday, and one of the Dragons' inaugural opponents is eager for his turn to arrive.
"It brings more joy to the school because now we will have a real homecoming," said St. Anthony senior Ryan Apel. "It is not just basketball any more, it is actually football. It brings everything back. Our teachers who have been here are excited. They are going to come out to Hana and support us and everything."
The Trojans won the MIL Division II title in 2004, then went 3-35-1 before leaving the sport.
"It is great because now we actually have a chance," Apel said. "We were the underdogs, but now all the underdog schools like Seabury and us can have a chance and not be destroyed by other teams. It is pretty cool."
Ryder Weymouth, a Sea-bury senior receiver and defensive lineman, said the excitement has reached Olinda, too.
"My teammates are all getting stoked, talking with each other, friends are all asking questions, hoping to come to the game and have a good time and they hope to see us win," he said. "In the lunch room, my uncle has been in there trying to pump me up, asking if I'm ready, how practice is going. We can't wait."
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org