Honolulu (HawaiiNewsNow) – Friday night lights will shine again this week.
The Hawaii Professional Football League is set to debut Friday night at the Aloha Stadium. Four teams will feature players with college and high school experience who are hoping to serve as the leagues pioneers.
There are no expensive contracts or high profile endorsements on the line, just hundreds of former football players from all levels, driven purely by the love of the game. "This is awesome," says former University of Hawaii player Cy Hirota. "I'm 39, going on 40 years old, so, I never had the opportunity to go and play beyond the University of Hawaii. I always wanted to play and when this opportunity came, I just wanted to give it a shot and see what I can do."
Hirota is not alone. Each team will suit up between 35-50 players, most of the coaches and folks behind the scenes are volunteers. Led by former UH Warrior, Carson Paepaelalo, the HPFL is labeled a nonprofit sports foundation dedicated to promoting and fostering a pro football organization in Hawaii.
Former Warrior receiver Darrick Branch is the head coach of the Koolau Hurricanes, most of his players have full time jobs and families to support, but they all still manage to attend several 2-3 hour practices each week.
"You see some of these guys kids and families watching practice and it's like we built a family around this team in a sense." Says Branch. "These guys have come out here and shown that they want to be a part of this. That's why it's easy for us like coaches to find the time to come out here and do this."
The league is considered "professional" because it's players are paid a small stipend for each game…but with an emphasis on "small." The amount of the payouts haven't been determined are said to be based largely off the success of the league's initial season and donations that come in. Yet, despite the lack of funding, every team is suiting up to display top-notch football.
Says Branch, "We run the west coast offense which is a balanced offense pretty much. Some power running, a lot of timing routes, things of that nature."
Hurricanes receiver/tight end Waiakloa Noa says that the fans should expect to see "Lots of action." He adds: "(We have) Some tough running backs, good o-line men, hard hitting safety's, we got some great skill guys making it happen."