Coach Dean Rickard (left) addresses the Lahainaluna High School varsity football team.
LAHAINA — With the COVID-19 pandemic protocols still confusing and shaking up the situation for high school sports, Maui Interscholastic League football began official workouts last week.
It’s been nearly two months since four-time defending Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division II State Champion and ten straight Maui Interscholastic League champ Lahainaluna has stepped onto the practice field.
While Interscholastic League of Honolulu — the so-called private schools on Oahu — have been competing in front of fans for nearly a month now, the MIL will try to launch a belated 2021 campaign with practices beginning and kickoff contests set for mid-October.
And, according to veteran Luna co-head coach Dean Rickard, there is still some uncertainty as to what to expect moving forward.
“There is uncertainty with the DOE (Department of Education) guidelines. And, of course, the main concern for us and I’m sure for many of the other teams in the MIL and throughout the state will be the number of players that will return.”
All players, coaches and staff will be required to be vaccinated or obtain an official exemption to participate. Coach Dean explained, “When we first started practice back in July, we had about 40-45 players at the varsity level and 35-40 for the JV team.”
“We’ve heard a few players and parents have already made the decision to forgo this season because of the DOE mandates, and we’ve also heard from other MIL coaches that some of their players have already moved to the Mainland to play — something we haven’t seen yet at Lahainaluna. It is a real concern for us, and we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.” Coach Dean said that some 20 student-athletes have turned in vaccination cards, and as that tally increases, the hope is that the number of those claiming exemptions will increase by next week.
Having the necessary documents prepared and turned in will provide a much smoother transition after the long layoff. “We’re fortunate to have a core group of players who have taken it upon themselves to continue working diligently on their own since the August 3 shutdown,” Rickard said.
“Our biggest regret for sure this season will be not being able to play in front of our community, families and friends who have always been there to fully support Lahainaluna football,” Coach Dean concluded. Plans are in the works to equip Sue D. Cooley Stadium and other MIL game sites with live streaming facilities.
Lahainaluna will move up to Division I this season, and despite the loss of the 2020 season, the 2021 Lunas will be competitive, as they are in the same boat as all other high school programs with more younger and inexperienced players on their rosters. “These kids have set the example for the rest of the team and will be the players we count on to step up and lead this year’s team forward.”