For the first time in about a dozen years, Pahoa High and Intermediate School is readying itself to field a football team.
Last week, Pahoa community members received word that the Pahoa Booster Club had been awarded a $92,000 grant by the Legislature to cover costs associated with equipment and personnel necessary to start an eight-man football team, in addition to covering one-year operating expenses.
“We were so excited to hear about it, the whole town,” Booster Club President Mark Hinshaw said Wednesday afternoon. “The town has gotten re-energized about its sports programs. There were lots of congratulatory emails and calls back and forth.”
In a Saturday email to boosters, Principal Darlene Bee said she intended to make a declaration to the Big Island Interscholastic Federation that Pahoa High School is “all in” for the next football season.
“My sincerest gratitude goes out to all of you who believed in supporting all Pahoa Regional Schools,” she wrote. “We are extremely fortunate to have such caring community members. My students, parents and staff will be as ecstatic as I am. Together we can achieve anything. … I am so excited for my students that I can hardly stand it. Let the games begin.”
The news of the grant money comes shortly after the release in March of $3.5 million to install lockers and shower rooms in Pahoa’s new gym building. The money, which was appropriated by the Legislature last Session, would also cover construction of wrestling facilities.
Pahoa High’s football team dissolved about 12 years ago for various reasons, including dwindling resources and player availability, but a recent poll of students at the school showed overwhelming interest in playing next year, Hinshaw said.
Bee reported that 37 out of 84 11th-graders responded with interest in joining a team, as well as 32 out of 118 10th-graders, 15 out of 114 ninth-graders, and 14 out of 103 eighth-graders.
Meanwhile, players on the outstanding Pop Warner Puna Panthers team are “coming of age,” Hinshaw said, and the school community wanted to make sure they have an opportunity to play.
“And we’re just excited, in general, because Pahoa has been kind of ignored, from infrastructure to roads to everything else, and the schools are no exception. This was like a little sugar cube for us, to say ‘Yes, we can do it,’” he said.
According to the grant application submitted to the Legislature in January, “Pahoa Booster Club members and the greater community believe that a football program for Pahoa will help with community building. There is nothing like a hometown football game. People show up in their school colors, they chant their alma mater, they congregate, and they cheer for their children, grandchildren, neighbors and friends. There are other sports that may draw a crowd, but nothing draws a crowd more than football.”
Hinshaw explained that the booster club was started in the last six months in an effort to respond to growing demand for football at Pahoa High, as well as sports opportunities at the other schools in Pahoa, including the Hawaii Academy of Arts and Sciences and Kua O Ka La charter schools.
“This isn’t just about Pahoa High, it’s about all the school in 96778 (area code),” he said.
The addition of Pahoa would mean that there would be three eight-man football teams on the island, including Ka‘u High and Kohala High. Three teams are required to start a league sport through BIIF.
He added that the news of the funding will be sure to make a pair of upcoming events all the merrier for attendees. Boosters will be in attendance and raising funds on May 10 for Pahoa’s annual music festival on May 10 from 5-10 p.m. Then, on May 17, the club will host a Pahoa Spirit Day parade at 9:30 a.m., a preceded by a 5K run at 7:30 a.m. Boosters will be collecting donations and selling tickets for a steak fry after the parade.
For more information on the Booster Club, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Email Colin M. Stewart at email@example.com.