Text and photos by Tiffany Edwards Hunt. All rights reserved. Use with permission only.
I went to the Pop Warner games in Pahoa Sunday and, I have to tell you, don’t miss the next series of games held out here. Â What an event. Â There must have been at least 300 people when I was there, and I was there just after big downpour and before the Puna Panthers played. I was only going to stay a minute to snap a few pictures, but my two-and-a-half-year-old got really into being there. Â Aunties Madie Greene, Barbara Lively, and Betty Blas doted over her, and Madie fed her curry that was being sold as a fundraiser for the Panthers. Â Auntie Luana Jones was there and took Coco and her grandson, Dayton, to buy Braddah Pops. Â Coco enjoyed running around with the keiki , loved watching the Wailoa Razorbacks cheerleaders, even the game. Â “I want to play football,” she kept saying at the event and afterward. Â I was surprised to run into a lot of people I knew who had children or grandchildren that play for the Panthers. Â I met many of the players and coaches for the three different divisions. Â Some folks I know from running our surf shop, others I’ve know from the beach. Â I had no idea Luana’s granddaughter was on the team, even that there were a couple of girls playing. That’s pretty exceptional Â I also didn’t know that Hanale McGuire, who is an exceptional surfer and skateboarder, is the quarterback for the Panthers.
I met Calvin Lee and his son, Kevin, who, with Fred Blas, organized the teams earlier this year. Â “This is the start of something great,” Calvin told me. Â He was so enthusiastic and energized, it was inspiring. Â He told me of their plans to see that these Pop Warner kids in Puna ultimately get a bonafide high school football team. Â I told him about the recent 60 Minutes episode I watched detailing how American Samoa has produced 30-plus NFL players and more than 200 Division 1 college players with equipment and facilities far more substandard than the Puna players have. One of the coaches, Donald La’a, pointed out how they had painted the field and goal posts and power-washed the bleachers, which were filled with spectators. Â Madie said that the Pop Warner organizers have decided that because Pahoa’s field is one of the more nicer fields, they will hold more games there. Â Indeed, this IS the start of something great.
I went to a number of schools on the mainland, big and small and, I have to say, there’s nothing better than a Friday night high school football game â€” especially in a small town. Â Actually, in Douglas, Wyoming, the whole town centers around the “Douglas Bearcats.” Â There’s actually bearcat footprints on sidewalks throughout the historic downtown area and leading all the way to the high school. Â On game days, the whole town gets into the team spirit, wearing school colors, decorating shop windows, what-have-you. Â The team spirit transcends the sport, really, and it actually does a lot for community pride. Â I see the Puna Panthers and the Pahoa Daggers â€” remember how exciting it was when the Daggers won the state championship in basketball? â€” doing wonders for community building.
When the day comes that you are asked to support a Panthers or Daggers fundraiser, I urge you to do so â€” whether or not you like football or basketball or volleyball or wrestling. Â And why not go to a game? Â This is your community, after all. Â Get into the spirit.
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