One of the best football rivalries on the Valley Isle will get a new twist on Saturday.
Alumni from Baldwin High School and Maui High will get the chance to put on helmets and pads and square off at War Memorial Stadium in a full-contact game, with kickoff scheduled for 7 p.m.
"I'm excited," said 2001 Maui High graduate David Tufaga. "I've been waiting to do this for a long time. I haven't suited up since high school and it's exciting to do it all over again."
Maui High School sophomore Leka Vainikolo (left) helps his brother Kamaloni Vainikolo prepare for the alumni football game against Baldwin High on Saturday. Kamaloni, 24, graduated in 2006.
The?Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo
Tufaga, 29, is one of the 60-plus players who will participate in the inaugural game, with players whose graduation years range from 1981 to 2012.
Tufaga said the game has been in the works since early January, but time was needed to find a venus and enough players.
"It was hard at first, because a lot of people didn't think we were going to play and weren't sure how serious it was," said Tufaga, who played quarterback and free safety for the Sabers. "But guys started to hear about it again and wanted to join."
Moses Kahae, a 1997 Maui High graduate, said it is an honor to represent his school again.
"I'm very nervous and excited," he said. "The nervous part is playing for the Maui High name again and reliving the glory days. I'm excited about playing under the lights at the stadium again."
Kahae, 33, said life is vastly different from his high school playing days.
"Us being older now, our priorities are not just football," said Kahae, who is a bouncer at Casanovas and a truck driver for The Delivery People. "When I got back into my stance, I was like, 'Whoa, the muscles have got to work all over again.' I'll love football to the day I die, but my body is a lot different than it was in high school."
Kahae played offensive line for more than 10 years for the semiprofessional Maui Stars, but said he has never been so close to any other team.
"We're all here for one reason, and one reason only - to make a statement. Things have gotten heated, with guys getting in arguments, but we're all here to play football."
The Bears' roster includes Dusty Raymond, who spent three years at Baldwin but graduated from Kaahumanu Hou in 1999.
"There's an anxiety about making sure you're not sidetracking your kids and job for this game," said Raymond. "As a kid, you're careless and you don't have to go to work the next day. Now, I have two girls and one son - it's an endless job being a parent."
Raymond, 31, works as a store manager at Na Hoku in Lahaina, meaning a long trip for practices in Kahului.
"I make the drive because it's something I've done my entire life," said Raymond, who played one year at Dana (Neb.) College. "It's a productive hobby and I love the game."
Tufaga, Kahae and Raymond remember the bitter rivalry between the Bears and Sabers, and said the teams' games were usually the biggest of the season.
"Back in the day, win or lose, we always wanted to make a point against Baldwin," Kahae said. "It didn't matter where each team stood in the standings, the rivalry was always intense. We're all looking forward to the game and most of all, beating Baldwin."
The game is taking place though Alumni Football USA, which conducted two games on the Big Island earlier this year.
"Some guys don't realize the part they play in their community," said Alumni Football USA official Kris No'eau, who graduated from Honokaa and played in last year's games. "Guys can support their community through these games."
Lindsey said each team was given 800 tickets, and that 50 percent of the money from presold tickets goes back to their schools. Proceeds from concessions, raffles and other in-game sales go to the schools, as well, he said, while money generated from ticket sales at the gate goes back to Alumni Football USA.
* Chris Sugidono is at firstname.lastname@example.org.