UPDATE: Kohala, Honoka`a Schools Explore Joint Football Squad

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***Updated at 1:45 p.m. on Thursday, August 1 to include comments from BIIF president Shawn Suzuki.***

It may not be the end for Kohala High School football after all.

According to Honoka`a High School Athletic Director Keith Tolentino, his school has been in contact with Kohala to explore the idea of combining both schools’ players to create one football team.

Honoka`a, like Kohala, has seen low numbers at its football practices. Tolentino told Big Island Now Wednesday that his team has 18 players with physicals show up to practice on Tuesday. Head Coach Bobby Embernate said Tuesday that the size of his squad has at times made it difficult to run plays.

After Kohala officially dropped out last Thursday, Tolentino said he reached out to Kohala Athletic Director Laurie Koustik to start dialogue on combining both teams. Tolentino cited the pact between St. Joseph Jr.-Sr. High School and Christian Liberty for the upcoming girls volleyball season as a model for what they want to do.


The athletic directors then took the discussion to their principals. According to Tolentino, Honoka`a Principal Glenn Gray submitted a letter to the Big Island Interscholastic Federation’s executive committee, made up of the league’s principals. Kohala Principal Janette Snelling will do the same.

BIIF President Shawn Suzuki, who serves as the principal of Konawaena High School, said Thursday that he will convene all of the league’s principals to vote on the matter as soon as they are able to take enough time to gather research and ask questions. Suzuki noted, however, that “we’re talking about this right at the beginning of school.”

“It’s not a matter of just jumping in and allowing it,” said Suzuki in a phone interview. “There are pros and cons and I’m sure there will be a dialogue around it.”

Normally, a small group of principals look at an appeal and recommend their findings to the executive board, led by Suzuki. Because this is not an appeal, Suzuki will take this to the entire group of principals. He said that “this needs to be a league decision.”


Once the principals gather up enough information, a special meeting will be called for discussion and a vote. The entire body usually meets quarterly and only calls special meetings for appeals on transfer rules or other pressing matters, such as this one.

Koustik had announced last Wednesday that the Cowboys would drop their football program following a low turnout of players with completed physical evaluations. Koustik said that 41 players attended a May meeting and were given the guidelines for what they needed prior to July 22, the first official day of football around the state.

She said that it would take 30 players to field a team, or the sport would be dropped. Only 16 with completed physicals showed up to conditioning drills on July 24.

Low numbers has also been a concern at Ka`u High School. Kalei Namohala, Ka`u’s athletic director, told Big Island Now last week that early turnout numbers were low at her school as well. She said that she would wait until Aug. 5, or 14 days after the sport’s initial start date, to make a decision on her school’s participation.


As for Tolentino and Honoka`a, disappointment doesn’t begin to describe the low turnout there. Tolentino said that “we hate to tell kids they cannot play,” but also cited concerns about the high forfeiture fee of $1,600 per road game

“I don’t want to not have football,” Tolentino said. “This is something that we’ve always had.”

The Dragons open their preseason schedule on Saturday, Aug. 17, when they visit Kea`au High School at 2 p.m. Honoka`a visits Waiakea the following Saturday at 3 p.m.

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