Maui Football Club meeting set for Thursday

UHMC team looks to play in Hawaii Football Club’s first season next spring

Wallwork

KAHULUI — The Maui Football Club will officially debut with an informational meeting on Thursday at the student lounge in the Pilina Building at the University of Hawaii Maui College, MFC head coach Aylett Wallwork has announced.

The meeting is set to start at 6 p.m. and will outline the plan for MFC that hopes to start play as part of the Hawaii Football Club, or Hawaii 8, a community college club football program that plans to play its first season with five teams around the state next spring.

Wallwork, who is also a defensive line coach for Maui High School, said Lance Da Silva of the Kamehameha Maui football staff will be the MFC offensive coordinator.

“The thing with football is everybody wants to see how you’re going to do it before they commit,” Wallwork said. “So, I’m still coming up with my plan. … The first year is probably going to be the hardest. Once we prove that we can actually put a team on the field, the kids are going to start coming out.”

The five high school teams who play 11-player football in the Maui Interscholastic League have 89 seniors who will graduate in May. HFC executive director Keala Pule said the ideal size for the Maui roster would be approximately 50 players.

Hokoana

“By this meeting, I believe if we can get 15 kids committed, by the fall we can pick up the rest,” Wallwork said. “But I’m not looking at 50. Realistically, we’re looking probably at about 30, 35.”

Wallwork added that Pule has solid connections to four-year football schools through his work with the Life Champions Bowl high school all-star game that was played at King Kekaulike Stadium in December.

“So if these kids want an opportunity, a second opportunity, this is a good avenue,” Wallwork said.

Wallwork, a Maui Police Department sergeant, is a former standout player for Maui High who played collegiately at UNLV and the University of Hawaii, where he graduated from in 1997.

“I remember when I was playing football in high school and when I went to college there were a lot of kids who could have still played that maybe just didn’t know how to play or how to get qualified to play,” Wallwork said. “And they ended up staying home and doing nothing and getting into trouble, so I would hope that a lot of guys take this seriously and move forward.”

The Maui meeting will be the third that has taken place for the HFC, a registered non-profit that has a mission statement to “Build Life Champions.”

Pule said that to be part of the Maui Football Club, student-athletes must be enrolled full time at UHMC for the 2020 spring semester.

Wallwork said the HFC organizers are in charge of securing equipment and insurance for the league. He said venues for games and practices on Maui have not been acquired yet.

Wallwork is also looking to attract recent high school graduates who have not yet enrolled in college.

“There’s a lot of kids that I’ve coached before that are still here who haven’t even enrolled in school,” Wallwork said. “We have some kids that I know came back from playing ball and they might not be able to go on to a four-year (program) after this, but their (college) timeline has already started, so if they want to play they can play.”

UHMC chancellor Lui Hokoana said that the MFC will be a club, or registered independent student organization. He is concerned about the cost for student-athletes.

“When we started to meet with (the HFC organizers) we were surprised that club sports does the same thing, that they charge parents for them to play,” Hokoana said. “So that’s the model they’re going to use here, and we’re in support to try to help. The startup cost was $1,500 per student, so I think that’s the biggest stumbling block.”

Wallwork said he is still looking for donors to help defray that cost to student-athletes “because I think it’s kind of hard for parents to come up with that. There’s a lot of things we’ve got to work on.”

Hokoana was recently impressed by the high turnout at an open house where the school unveiled plans for esports teams.

“Like the esports, football is the same, right?” Hokoana said. “It’s providing a welcome mat for a certain type of student, to attract them to our education and get them in the door.”

Head coaches for HFC Oahu teams include Reggie Torres, the former Kahuku coach, and Walter Young, the former coach at Waianae.

“This is difficult for us to do, but the reason we’re trying to go all-in on this is who came and presented this to us. Legitimate guys who said that ‘our students need this, we’re sending them away to the Mainland, they’re not getting tuition there, they’re just going there to go play,’ “ Hokoana said. “So, if we can use that to attract them to higher education, we will do that. If we can provide that opportunity right here on Maui, awesome. We’re going to do it.”

Hokoana said that trying to start in less than 12 months is “very ambitious, very ambitious. So, it will be interesting to see how our student government might want to play in this because they might have the funds to actually support something like that. So that could possibly be a funding source and it’s the student fee money that would go to that.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com

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