The dual threat of Hurricane Iselle and Hurricane Julio was too much for the Big Island schools scheduled to play football this weekend.
All six preseason games set to be played – two on Friday and four on Saturday – have been canceled. The state Department of Education closed all schools on the Big Island for Thursday and Friday, and a number of schools are serving as emergency shelters.
Bill Trumbo, Konawaena High School’s athletic director, said that the decision to cancel the Wildcats’ planned trip to Honolulu to play St. Francis was made in the best interests of the students.
“I think any time there is a weather risk it’s better to risk on the side of caution,” he said.
Since preseason games involve inter-island travel, the decision not to play was not as simple as sending a bus driver home.
“Us trying to get to Oahu, is probably a $15,000 trip that we’ve worked and saved for,” he said. “If you go and you get rained on and thunder and lightning and have to stop the game, you’re out $15,000.”
Instead, Trumbo expects the school to be able to use the plane tickets at a later date.
Iris McGuire, athletic director at Keaau High School, faced a similar issue with the Cougars set to play Lahainaluna High School on Maui on Friday. Airfare alone was estimated at $8,000 for the 50 tickets that the school had purchased.
With Iselle projected to hit the Big Island on Thursday and Julio possibly making landfall on Saturday, McGuire said the risk was too great.
“The basis of our decision was safety,” she said. “If the hurricane does hit and we’re in Maui, the kids will be worried about their families at home, and their families at home will be worried about them there.”
Keaau and Lahainaluna have a tradition of playing one another each preseason with alternating home games. McGuire said the schools have been in close contact regarding whether or not to cancel the game and that she offered to have Keaau travel to Maui next year to play.
McGuire said that Keaau was the first Big Island school to cancel, as she, Principal Dean Cevallos and football coach Kalei Young decided on Tuesday to cancel the trip to Maui.
“We had to make a call and we made it,” she said. “Some of our parents were concerned. I wanted to address their concerns. I didn’t want to put anybody on hold for too long.”
Lyle Crozier, BIIF executive director, said that the federation spoke with schools about the decision to cancel games.
“We communicate with each other, but because they are preseason games, administrators at the school have a say,” he said. “That was the consensus amongst everybody – that they didn’t want to take the chance for the safety of the kids.”
Alan Vogt, athletic director for Kealakehe High School, had thought that since the Waveriders were not scheduled to host Oahu’s Kapolei until Saturday that it might be possible to salvage the contest, but ultimately, it was canceled as well.
“It’s kind of out of our hands,” Vogt said. “Student safety is of primary importance.”
Due to time and financial constraints, the games canceled this weekend will not be rescheduled, but at least two Big Island schools are looking for alternatives. Honokaa High School football coach Morgan Hanohano said that his school, which was scheduled to play at home against Oahu’s Kaimuki High School on Friday, could host Hilo High School on Aug. 22 for a controlled scrimmage.