There were no Friday night lights, no late-summer practices, no battles in the trenches. No touchdowns, sacks or game-changing turnovers.
Eight Kealakehe seniors were able to ensure the anti-climactic cancelation of the 2020 high school football season, however, would not spell the end of their athletic careers. At the Old Airport pavilion in Kailua-Kona, seven Waverider football players signed their letters of intent Wednesday to continue their academic and athletic careers at the next level, while one other signed his during a virtual ceremony on Feb. 3.
“Without a senior season, this means a lot,” Kealakehe head coach Wyatt Nahele said. “It shows the perseverance they’ve got, to go through a time like this. The way I look at it, there shouldn’t be anything that holds you back from accomplishing your dreams.”
For four Waveriders, their college journeys will take them to Missouri. Kenan Kaeo-Nakashima and Keahi Ching will attend Culver-Stockton College in Canton, while Hailama Anakalea and Gareth Warren elected to sign with Lindenwood University in Saint Charles. Anakalea is the lone Waverider who will be playing rugby, not football, at the next level.
“I started playing rugby as a seventh grader because I was always too big to be playing Pop Warner,” Anakalea said. “I fell in love with rugby.”
Four more Waveriders will attend schools on the West Coast. Mikah Ascino and Kristian Delima will attend Allen Hancock College in Santa Maria, California, while Kekoa Meyers will be at University of La Verne in La Verne, California. Kealakehe’s final signee, Malachi Lehmann, will head north to the University of Linfield in McMinnville, Oregon.
Far from a typical recruiting year, much of the process turned to online meetings and conversations with coaches. For Kealakehe’s eight athletes, making it out the other side with scholarships in hand made the virtual process worth it.
“The process was really hard,” Warren said. “There’s a lot of virtual meetings. I’m glad that we were able to persevere and make something of ourselves.”
For this group’s head coach, having so many of his players continue their athletic and academic careers despite living in the pandemic highlights the positive mentality they’ve taken on during a difficult time.
“Even if we’re in a time period like we’re in now, the players continue to do well in school,” Nahele said. “They continue do the things that they’re in control of.”