It wasn’t an official game. The opponents were their classmates, the clock only stopped after each quarter and the stats won’t be in any record books.
But that hardly mattered to 11 Kealakehe seniors, who were all smiles and laughter — with a few tears — on Wednesday evening as the sun set on their final football game as Waveriders.
And it was quite a finale, with a Hail Mary pass giving the seniors a last-second 28-22 win over the underclassmen in a Senior Night touch football game just a few weeks out from graduation.
“Just to be back out here after a year of no football and to see our athletes out here, showing emotion, this is what makes it worth it for me,” said Kealakehe head coach Wyatt Nahale after the game, as the players gathered on the field for emotional congratulations and goodbyes.
“I get to see my seniors embracing each other, hugging their coaches, and out here sharing the moment. It’s not about the win or the loss. It’s about being able to come out here and restore some pride back on the field, and leave with some dignity.”
It was Ronnie Tababa who came up with the idea for Senior Night and pushed for the creation of the game. In an unfortunate stroke of bad luck, Tababa sprained his ankle in practice Tuesday, but was still there Wednesday night cheering on his fellow seniors.
“I’ve seen people doing it for other sports, and it just seemed like it would be a good idea,” Tababa said.
When reminiscing about his time as a Waverider, it was the people surrounding him on the football field that Tababa said would stick with him after he leaves Kealakehe.
“My favorite moments were just the friendships, and getting to know everyone,” Tababa said.
Tababa’s senior season at Kealakehe was canceled because of the pandemic, and while some BIIF winter and spring sports were able to play a few games under COVID-19 restrictions, football never got that chance in the 2020-21 school year.
Nahale said he was grateful they were allowed one last scrimmage for the seniors.
“Thanks to our athletic director and our administration here, they allowed us to do it under the guidelines and restrictions,” he said. “And them allowing us to come back out here and do something like this, it means so much.”
With vaccinations being distributed on the island and restrictions slowly being lifted, there’s a good chance Nahale will be able to coach a full season in the fall.
Wednesday’s competitive game gave him a glimpse of what his team can do next year.
“I’m excited for them,” Nahale said. “We’ve got a good group coming back and I’m super excited to see what the future is.”