Pine Lads excited for first title game
Lanai to face two-time defending champion Farmers on Molokai
In many ways, J.J. Dulay grew up to be a Lanai High School football player.
Dulay, a senior running back for the Pine Lads’ eight-player team, started playing football 10 years ago at the Junior Pee Wee Pop Warner level.
On Saturday afternoon at Molo-kai’s on-campus field in Hoolehua, he will lead the Pine Lads into their first appearance in the Maui Interscholastic League championship game against the Farmers.
“Only my boys, only the football team, we’re all just hyped about it,” Dulay said via phone after practice Tuesday. “We can’t stop thinking about it, we’re excited, we have a lot of sauce about it. It’s unbelievable because we made it this far.”
The Lanai community will hold a rally for the team today at Dole Park in Lanai City.
The Pine Lads (2-1) clinched a spot in the championship game with a 48-34 win over Seabury Hall last week. It was the first time they’d beaten the Spartans, who won the first three MIL eight-player titles from 2012 to 2014.
“It’s going to be different — I’m really excited for it because there’s been a lot of bounce for us,” Dulay said. “Our team is really small compared to the other teams, but we surprised them. We came through and I think (the community) is surprised and they just want to support us now. This boosts them up, like, they believe in us and that’s good. We needed it.”
Coach Stephen Ferguson said that more than 100 people are expected to make the trip on a chartered ferry from Lanai to Molokai for the game.
“In the beginning, it’s not a football town, so everybody was worried, ‘Can we compete?’ “ Ferguson said after the win over Seabury Hall. “Now, we’re making progress and we have believers.”
Ferguson has been the head coach for all four years that the Pine Lads have been part of the MIL eight-player league.
He said there was a movement 10 years ago to start football — Dulay and several of his senior classmates are some of the the first players to come through the effort that began with the Junior Pee Wee Pop Warner team.
“We stayed with the team as they grew up,” Ferguson said Tuesday. “Right now the kids on our team is the bulk of our Pop Warner boys.”
In the regular-season matchup, Molokai defeated Lanai 72-38 on Sept. 16.
“This is something that we hoped one day would happen and it actually came sooner than we could have wished for,” Ferguson said. “I’m excited. I know Molokai is the defending champ and, you know, they’re a formidable champ.
“They are going to be defending their hometown and the title, so we’re trying to get our boys mentally ready, physically ready, and let them know that they are making history — we’re in the MIL championship game.”
The Farmers’ on-campus field is adorned with a scoreboard for the first time this season. The community fundraising effort was spearheaded by The Friends of Molokai High School and Middle School — the group matched community funds dollar for dollar and KMK Construction installed the scoreboard for free.
“It was great to see recent football graduates working on the installation of (the) scoreboard, (giving) back to the school and community of Molokai,” athletic director Lee DeRouin said in an email.
The Farmers (3-0), who are the two-time defending champions, will host the title game for the first time.
“It’s exciting,” coach Mike Kahale said. “Ever since we found out the new format would be that the No. 1 seed would host, that’s what we’ve been playing for. We didn’t know exactly how the season would turn out, but that was always that carrot at the end. Like, ‘OK boys, if we can run that table, guys, we will play the championship game here on September 30th. So we’re just happy and pleased that we get to have another home game and the whole community gets to come out and watch the championship game. It’s huge for us.”
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org
MIL EIGHT-PLAYER FOOTBALL
Third-place game: Hana at Seabury Hall, 11 a.m.
Championship game: Lanai at Molokai, 1 p.m.