By Rodney S. Yap
Ten Maui boys enjoyed a “priceless moment” Saturday in Laie, stunning host team Kahuku 22-20 in the title tilt of the school’s first 7 on 7 passing tournament.
“For me it was like a priceless moment to see the way these boys played,” said coach Jack Damuni of team Maui’s “Terrific Ten.” “Everyone was impressed with the kind of shape these boys were in — just 10 guys — it was unreal.”
The Maui players included Chase Newton and Kyozo Vaitulala of Kamehameha Schools Maui (2), and Tevarua Eldredge, Justice Castroverde-Moniz, Josiah Maglente-Tonu, Jeremiah Badillo, La’akea Kaho’ohanohano-Davis, Kailoa Ambrose, Keola Talaroc, and freshman-to-be Brysen Dela Cruz from Baldwin High School (8).
“If we had a video of the whole thing, no one would be believe we won with 10 boys,” said Damuni, who coached the defense, while Thomas Tonu coached the offense.
Maui finished the tournament with an 8-3 overall record, beating Aiea in the quarterfinals and St. Francis in the semifinals. In the opposite bracket Kahuku defeated Radford in the semis to advance.
According to Damuni the other teams, including Kalaheo and Mililani, had 20- to 25-man rosters.
In the end, Damuni, a graduate of Kahuku and Brigham Young University, said he was overwhelmed with emotion.
“I was lost for words. Not that I doubted them, but I was lost for words with how they responded and how they never gave up and kept playing. We kept asking them to give it their all and they gave it.
“It was humbling for me to go back to the school, and at the same time it was bitter sweet.”
Damuni said the boys survived playing two ways with little rest because of their positive attitudes.
“We keep trying to motivate them, saying ‘come on guys we can do it,’ and every time we talked to them there was a positive response. No-one complained or got down on each other.”
“We wanted to take about 14 guys and we asked… and these 10 guys really wanted to go.”
The two-day tournament did not start well for Team Maui, Damuni said.
“We had four games scheduled on Friday but we arrived late because coach Thomas’ plane had a mechanical problem so we didn’t get to Honolulu until 7 o’clock — so they canceled all of our games, because the tournament started at 3.
“By the time we got there (Laie) everybody was leaving.”
Maui played 11 games over a 5 1/2-hour span Saturday. The quarterback has four seconds to release the ball on offense. Extra point attempts from 5 yards are worth one point, from 10 yards two points. Any hand touch ends the play and no scoring on defense.
“We started out at No. 7, the bottom, and we won our pool.”
Maglente-Tonu quarterbacked all but one game.
“He was unreal today,” Damuni said of the 6-foot-3 junior-to-be. “But I can’t say any one player was outstanding because everyone came through when they needed to and we had some outstanding stops on defense.
“By the time we got to the championship game a lot of our guys were hurting. They (Red Raiders) were physical, but it was all part of the game, there was plenty of good sportsmanship.”
A squad of one dozen Kahuku football players, representing Team Hukilau Cafe, went 7-2 at the New Level Athletics 7-on-7 west regional tournament held in Las Vegas in early March.
“Before the (championship) game I told the boys that whatever happens, I’m satisfied,” Damuni concluded. “My intentions were to just go out there and give the boys some reps and experience… but if you want to be the best, you have to play the best.”