Hana High’s small but mighty football team returns with ‘a lot of heart’

After pandemic pause, Hana High School's unique 8-player football team returns for the first time since 2019.
Published: Sep. 13, 2022 at 12:37 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 13, 2022 at 12:39 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - For the first time since 2019, football is back in Hana, Maui, and it’s a little different.

It’s eight-man football: Eight players on each side.

But it doesn’t matter how many players there are. The passion and the excitement are still there.

“Football is football, doesn’t matter if it’s two on two, three on three,” said Elzie Brook, Hana High head coach. “If you love football, you make it work.”

But if you want to get technical, the Hana High School Dragons have the same positions as the 11-man game, minus two offensive tackles and a running back and on defense, they lose two linebackers and a safety.

The field is shorter and more narrow: 80 yards by 40 yards.

It may sound complicated, but perhaps it’s just this simple.


When Hana High cornerback Floyde “Gabe” Helekahi is out there lined up against a receiver, this is what he’s thinking: “Just like smash him, get the win. That’s it.”

Hana plays in a four-team league, along with Molokai, Lanai and Seabury Hall.

They have less than 30 players, but this is still the biggest turnout they’ve ever had. And while many athletes and other leagues are playing for trophies, scholarships and recognition, it’s different for these guys.

“It was really a joy in my heart to get back on the field because two years already, I mean COVID took away from me, and as a little kid in elementary, all I would look up to was everybody playing football and for me to come ninth grade and condition and once season came up and I couldn’t play, it was very heartbreaking,” said Kawika Helekahi, a Hana High junior.

“A lot of families who don’t have a lot, so the kids have to work, and so for the last three years they’ve been working, working, working,” Brook said.

What kind of work? Exhausting work.

“Construction and other stuff around they drive tractors and stuff,” said Jeremiah Piimauna-Beck, tight end and safety.

Molokai High is the powerhouse in this league, the five-time defending champ. But the boys from Hana say anything is possible. And they just want to play.

“I feel like we can,” Piimauna-Beck said. “The boys this year, they have a lot of heart, a lot of soul. We got this this year.”