Tonight’s MIL 8-player title game could be a turning point

Molokai High School and Seabury Hall will renew their rivalry in the Maui Interscholastic League 8-player football championship game tonight at 6 p.m. at War Memorial Stadium.

The game looks like the final step before an offseason arrives that will be crucial to the survival of the MIL 8-player ranks.

For the second year in a row, the league has had only three teams actually play their final games — Molokai has had forfeit victories in each of its last two playoff semifinal games, last year against Lanai, this year against Hana.

This season, Molokai has played a total of three MIL games, just one at home — meaning its opener against Hana on Sept. 24 served as senior day for a program with more than 40 on its roster.

The league is only five seasons old and just two years ago, it had six teams — Molokai, Seabury Hall, Hana, Lanai, Kihei Charter and St. Anthony. With dwindling student numbers, St. Anthony dropped out of the league prior to the 2015 season, and Kihei Charter dropped out after playing one game.

Seabury Hall has made no formal request to the MIL, but it appears to be preparing for the possibility of joining the 11-player ranks. The Spartans have played scrimmage games against 11-player teams on Maui and have more scheduled in the future. Seabury Hall also has started its own Big Boy program as a feeder to the varsity team.

This season, Seabury Hall added St. Anthony as a partner to provide players. Still, the Spartans have a roster of just 28 players, not enough to meet the MIL minimum of 35 non-freshmen to be part of the 11-player ranks for programs that do not field JV teams.

If Seabury Hall goes to 11-player football, that would almost force Molokai to do the same. The Farmers are in better position roster-number-wise, but travel problems abound, however, especially after the recent demise of the Molokai ferry.

It is my guess that the existing MIL 11-player teams would be very hesitant to add the Farmers to the mix, requiring trips with full football teams and equipment from Maui to Molokai, and vice versa, on small airplanes — almost impossible to do.

No question, tonight’s game is big for MIL 8-player football. The future beyond tonight of a once-promising addition to the sports’ landscapes for Maui County’s most rural places appears very much up in the air.


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