Thursday | December 14, 2017
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HHSAA football: Pep rally brings together community to cheer on state-final bound Konawaena

KEALEKEKUA — Konawaena Elementary School was a zoo on Wednesday. But don’t worry — it was all by design.

For once, the louder was the better for the hundreds of eager students who welcomed the Konawaena High School football team for a pep rally, hoping to give the “Zoo Crew” a boost before they head to Oahu to take on Lahainaluna in the HHSAA Division II state championship on Saturday.

“The players on the team are kids that we know and a lot of them came through this elementary school. A lot of our teachers and students go to the games, so we just said ‘let’s do it’ and threw it together,” said Debi Yamamoto, who works at the elementary school and helped organize the event. “A lot of the adults are super excited. Some of the younger kids might not realize the significance right now — or really know what a pep rally is — but it’s a first time ever type of thing. It’s a big deal. ”

Students waved signs, shook hands, sang and cheered for the Wildcat players during the festive affair that lasted about a half-hour. Konawaena Elementary School student body president Maming Bacxa provided the first highlight of the rally, giving a speech that drew a loud applause from the crowd.

“Look around at the audience,” Bacxa said, addressing the Konawaena players. “Out there you see your brothers, sisters, cousins, friends and supporters. When things get tough, think of those faces. We may watch Thor, the Flash, or the Avengers, but you are our real life superheroes.”

Like many of his players, Konawaena head coach Brad Uemoto grew up in the local community, first admiring the program he would eventually play for and then lead to uncharted territory. In his three years at the helm, Uemoto has guided the Wildcats to three consecutive BIIF titles, a pair of state semifinal appearances and now a chance at an unprecedented state title.

“When I was in elementary school, I was in the same position as many of these kids. I looked up to the high school football players and the successes they had in the 80s,” said Uemoto. “For an entire school to able to cheer for a common cause is something special. It has been great to see how something as simple as a football game can bring together our community. That’s what it’s all about.”

That sentiment has not been lost on his players, especially senior quarterback Austin Ewing, who has been lighting up BIIF scoreboards for three years at the varsity level. He spoke to the young fans at the pep rally, giving them some advice and thanking them for their support.

“During all the games I play in, I see the passion of the fans in the crowd cheering us on. One day, I want to come back and see these younger generations playing and be able to cheer them on, too,” Ewing said after the pep rally. “I feel like 20 or 30 years from now, the community will still be going strong, cheering on all the sports at Konawaena. That’s one of the best things about being a part of all this. I’m always going to remember this community.”

The rally was also a see it to believe it type moment for some of the Wildcats. Senior defensive end Paka Cacoulidis has heard that the team has young fans, but seeing all the faces in one place with big signs and green Wildcat paws printed on their faces was a bit of validation.

“It feels good to hear that these young kids look up to you, but it’s hard to believe if you don’t necessarily see it,” Cacoulidis said. “Seeing all these smiling faces today — it was incredible.”

The title tilt against the Lunas at Aloha Stadium will be broadcasted on Spectrum OC16 via Pay-Per-View for a cost of $49.95. That includes all three games, including the D-I championship between Hilo and Damien, and the Open Division Championship with Saint Louis taking on Kahuku. Uemoto realizes that price tag might be a bummer for some, but reassured that 100 percent of that money goes back to the HHSAA and its member schools.

“The money goes to a good cause and hopefully people can have a little party, get together, watch the game and have a good time,” Uemoto said.

 

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