8-player football making gains

In just its third season as an official sport, 8-player football teams will outnumber their 11-player counterparts in the Maui Interscholastic League this fall.

The league unveiled its 8-player schedule Thursday to The Maui News – Kihei Charter School and Lanai have joined the mix to make it six teams, one more than the MIL will have in 11-man football.

“Absolutely, once I found out that Lanai and Kihei Charter were being added I was just stoked,” Molokai coach Mike Kahale said Thursday. “This lends all credibility to what we have been doing. We are growing.”

Seabury Hall coach Andrew Burger added, “I just think that’s real cool, that’s real neat that we have that many schools that are participating in our league, for lots of the small guys to field a team and have an opportunity to play.”

The 8-player schedule also includes the first-ever MIL postseason football tournament.

Quarterfinals will match the third- vs. sixth-place teams and fourth vs. fifth on Oct. 24 at sites to be determined. The top two finishers in a five-game, round-robin regular season will receive byes the first week of the tournament and play the quarterfinal winners on Oct. 30 in a doubleheader at War Memorial Stadium.

The semifinal winners will meet for the MIL title on Nov. 6 at 6:30 p.m. at War Memorial Stadium.

The Big Island Interscholastic Federation will become the second league in the state to officially add the sport, with Pahoa, Ka’u and Kohala making up its contingent this fall.

MIL sport coordinator Robert Dougherty, the Seabury Hall athletic director, said he is working on matching the MIL and BIIF champions in a postseason game. Three leagues are required to sanction a sport before a state tournament can be played.

“What is even more special about it is it started on Maui,” Dougherty said. “It’s cool to see that grow.”

Kahale added: “It’s exciting. One more league and we can have a state championship.”

Kahale knows his football team is counted on to produce revenue for a school that faced a $40,000 travel-budget shortfall last year before benefactors stepped in. The Farmers will play a preseason game against Holy Trinity Catholic from Edmonton, Alberta, on Aug. 19.

“That might be the way to go for us,” Kahale said. “Find some affluent Canadian or Mainland Catholic schools (to play) because we have got two saints here now, so we are looking forward to it. This will be a great experience for all. We need to generate income to help support it because it is an expensive sport.

“The playoff games will generate a little bit more buzz. I just wish we had lights – if we played at night, it would make a world of difference.”

Molokai is 8-4 all-time in MIL contests – all four losses were to 12-0 Seabury Hall. The MIL’s first two official seasons have been six-game, home-and-home schedules.

Molokai and Seabury Hall will play their single game this year on Thursday, Sept. 18 at War Memorial Stadium. The Spartans will have seven days after its preceding game before meeting the Farmers, who will have five days in between.

A 10-game double round-robin schedule was discussed, but that would not have left time for a tournament.

“In theory, on paper, 10 games, home and away, it sounds good, but now looking at the details, I think this format suits us best,” Kahale said.

Burger added: “Every team is going to end the season with a meaningful game. With this schedule, what it really benefits is 8-man football, not any specific school.”

The league will play six Thursday night regular-season league games and two non-league games between St. Anthony and Kihei Charter will also be on Thursdays. There will be two Thursday doubleheaders at War Memorial Stadium – on Sept. 18 and Oct. 9.

“It’s a chance for people to come out and see our games,” Dougherty said. “We can’t go head-to-head with the 11-man games. Thursday night is not the most ideal night to play, but it’s a chance for the kids in our league to have the light shine on them.”

Seabury Hall expects to have more than 40 players on its roster, while Kahale expects around 35 for the start of practice – numbers that will rival some MIL 11-man teams.

All but one returning first-team MIL All-Stars belong to the Farmers and Spartans – quarterback Jaxson Stinger, receiver Rip Pahukoa, and defensive linemen Hobbs Weymouth and Bryce Barbier are all from Seabury Hall, while Molokai returns receiver Kai-mana Kahale and defensive lineman King Kahana-Kalua.

Burger is expecting big things from Stinger, a 6-foot-5 senior.

“Jaxson’s been working real hard this summer, been doing a ton of camps,” Burger said. “I know he is looking forward to his senior year, but we are excited to have him back. He is going to be a big part of our offense.”

* Robert Collias is at