Anuenue joins OIA football
By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Wes Nakama
For only the second time in 32 years, a new varsity football team will join the O'ahu Interscholastic Association.
And probably for the first time in Hawai'i, a varsity team's signals will be called entirely in Hawaiian.
Kula Kaiapuni O' Anuenue — or Anuenue, for short — becomes the OIA's 23rd varsity football team when the regular season opens next month. Based in Palolo Valley, it also is the state's first Hawaiian language immersion school to compete in a varsity league.
The team's nickname is Na Koa, or "Warriors," and its jerseys will be royal blue and black.
"Our school color actually is teal, but they don't make teal jerseys anymore," said head coach Tim "Kealoha" Wengler. "So the closest color we could find was royal blue."
Choosing a uniform color probably will be a minor obstacle facing Anuenue in its inaugural season. The school has only 82 students in grades 9 through 12, about half of which are girls.
The football team has 28 players and only one senior. Almost all played on the junior varsity last season, but only five had any prior football experience.
"It's a young team, and we'll probably get beaten up a bit this season," said Wengler, who works as a counselor at Anuenue. "But this season is important for next year, to give everybody the experience they need."
People at the school — from principal Charles "Kale" Naumu, to Wengler, to the players — seem to believe the growing pains will be worth it.
Junior running back/defensive end 'Olu'olu Naone was allowed to play for Roosevelt's JV team two years ago because there was no football program at Anuenue. But he wanted his school to have its own team, and he encouraged his classmates and friends to help make it happen.
"It's exciting," Naone said of the upcoming season. "It's nerve-wracking, plenty butterflies. But I've wanted a team here since seventh grade. I just told (friends) how much fun it is."
The fun has spread around campus, where a cheerleading team was assembled and pep rallies are scheduled.
"It's contributed to the school spirit," said Wengler, who played for and graduated from Kalani. "It's not the same when you don't have football."
It's also not the same when all the calls are in Hawaiian. Wengler consulted language experts at the University of Hawai'i to come up with translations for football terms like "stunt" or "blitz."
"It's all about preserving the Hawaiian language," Wengler said.
Reach Wes Nakama at firstname.lastname@example.org.