Moanalua makes move up to Open Division

Ruben Chavez, staff writer

  This year marks history for the Moanalua football team. For the first time ever, the football team will be competing in the open division, the highest-level football division in the state. It features schools like Mililani, Kahuku, and James Campbell. 

Players on the team are well aware of the tough road ahead and are ready to compete against the best. 

“Playing in the open is playing with the best in the state that’s why it’s important to show we are one of the best in the state and we got pulled up for a reason,” junior running back Thor Gante said.

      The team has been preparing for the season since March and many were doubtful the team would even be able to field a team in the open division. The roster had over 40 seniors last year and a small JV team which left a very small returning varsity roster. However, head coach Vince Nihipali helped recruit some new players to the team that have already made a massive impact. 

Some of those players include Tayden Ka’awa and Jordan Paredes from St. Louis, Kahoku McClellan and Eric Stevens from Mililani, and Joshua Acidera and Kingston Ishimine from Campbell along with plenty more. 

A team with so many transfers would be expected to not get along well, but the team chemistry is solid. 

“Tthe feeling in the locker room and on the field is electric,” senior linebacker Ryan Gibbs said. “Everyone is hyped up and supportive of each other. It’s a great feeling to have when you have such a supportive and committed team. It took a while for all of us to click since there’s so many transfers, but we’re getting along better than I thought we would.”

     Many are wondering why Moanalua changed divisions in the first place. Although the 2021 season was very successful for the Menehune football team, they did not win the OIA Division I championship. Well according to athletic director Mr. Kawachi, 

“We were the regular season division 1 champions last year so that made us move up to the open division,” Moanalua High School Athletic Director Joel Kawachi said. “Farrington was last place in the open so they moved down to D1.”

He added that none of the coaches or school staff had a say in the decision. 

“We needed to increase our roster size because of the step up in competition,” Kawachi said. That meant seeking additional students to transfer to Moanalua.

      Needless to say, this season marks a new era in Moanalua football and gives the team the opportunity to prove themselves and show they belong with the big boys in the state. 

The team’s next game is Saturday, Sept. 17, a home game against Kapolei.

Colby Casnias (94) towers over the Leilehua player at the Sept. 9 Homecoming game. (Haley Meyer photo)
Ryson Lum charges after a Leilehua player at the Sept. 9 Homecoming game. Moanalua is ranked tenth in the state. (Elijah Lo photo)