KEAAU – Kamehameha coach Dan Lyons made The Decision, and he’s sticking with it.
Though it ultimately ended up costing his team home-field advantage in the BIIF Division II football title game, he wouldn’t change a thing.
Well, maybe one.
“I would have beaten Kealakehe,” Lyons joked Monday during an upbeat Warriors practice as his players could be heard hotting and hollering in the background at Paiea Stadium. “Do they look like they are in a bad mood to you?”
Kamehameha (5-2) had won four in a row since that loss to the Waveriders and had – apparently – locked up home field when Lyons elected to forfeit a make-up game at Hilo that had “no purpose.” Lyons said he was well-aware The Decision could prove costly – thanks to a BIIF procedure/bylaw that takes away the tiebreaker advantage in the event of a forfeit – and it did when the Wildcats beat Kealakehe on Saturday to improve to 5-2.
Konawaena will host Kamehameha at 7 p.m. Saturday in the championship game, even though the Warriors won the head-to-head meeting, 28-20 on Oct. 6 in Kealakekua.
Because of his passion for promoting player safety, Lyons said the forfeiture was an “easy decision.”
“That’s what our program is about. If we’re going to change the sport, address the issue of CTE, we’re going to change the ways we do things,” he said. “Change the fact that we don’t want guys going on the field in a collision sport in a game that basically, it’s not that it doesn’t matter, but in the scheme of things, there is no purpose to the game.”
Lyons noted his program has long been on the lookout for player safety, from eliminating hitting during the spring to monitoring tackling techniques to making sure players are never taken to the ground during full-pad practices.
The Warriors’ players were looking forward to avoiding their fourth consecutive trip to Kealakekua for the title game after coming up empty the past three trips.
“They’ve all had opportunity to speak and vent and whatever,” Lyons said.
“I said in your life, you’re going to come to a point where you’re going to make tough decisions, where there may not be a right or a wrong decision, but there has to be a decision,” he said. “When you come to those decisions, when you come to those core values, then you’re being honest with yourself with who you want to be.”
Warriors senior Thaze Gomes, a four-year starter, was understandably thrilled when Kamehameha apparently had locked up home field in the title game for the first time in his career.
On Monday, he said, “Doesn’t matter where we’re going to play, we still have to play and we’re still working hard.”
There were no signs, Gomes said, that Kamehameha was an angry or distracted team.
“We were more enthusiastic at practice. We know how much is on the line,” he said. “There was a different intensity. Mondays are usually chill, laughing more. Rather than laughing, we’re in the right mindset. We just want to win.”
Senior Teva Reynolds, a two-way lineman and four-year starter, knows people will question his coach’s decision, but after a week to think about it, he said, “We back him up 100 percent.”
“At first, I was pretty upset we weren’t going to play Hilo and lose home-field advantage,” he said, “but the more I thought about our coaches decision and why he made it to protect our safety, I honestly think it was a really good idea.”
Tight end/linebacker Kalama Anahu sees positives coming out of the forfeit. In his mind, The Decision will have little bearing on who is crowned Division II champion on Saturday night.
“I know we beat them on their field once, we can do it again,” Ahuna said. “I know a lot of other people are mad, but it’s kind of good for us. It puts a chip on your shoulder in terms of how we prepare. We just want to be more prepared.”