It wasn’t long before news of Kahuku’s premature end to its football season made its way around the island.
From Saint Louis to Mililani to Leilehua, calls came in to Red Raiders coach Reggie Torres.
"I got calls from Leilehua (Nolan Tokuda), (Darnell) Arceneaux, (Rod) York. They don’t want to see it happen this way. They want to do it on the field," said Torres, red-eyed and worn out after his team’s long day.
Kahuku, arguably the best team in the islands in recent years, was 10-0 and No. 1 in the Star-Advertiser Top 10 all season before the Oahu Interscholastic Association ruled that the use of an ineligible player would end the team’s season.
Players were understandably shocked, even numb, hours after the bad news hit.
"We didn’t know anything about it," senior lineman Kamalani Aalona said. "We worked so hard."
Another senior lineman, Nicholas Acoba, was equally blindsided.
"Something happened and they didn’t catch it before. It was the worst time it could’ve happened," Acoba said.
Waiting through the morning for the decision was nerve-wracking.
"We stayed real close and we stuck as a team," Acoba said.
"We’re devastated. It’s our last year," Aalona said.
"I just wanted to play tonight," senior running back Tyrone Brown said. "If we knew we had one last game, we could’ve had fun. There would be no woulda, coulda, shoulda. We have a lot of friends from other schools asking, ‘What happened?’ "
Nose guard Mark Sauvao, a junior, was among many Red Raiders who feels the penalty is too severe.
"Just drop us out of OIA and let us play states," he said.
Co-captain George Tafuna could only shrug.
"All we can do is get ready for college and our next sports," he said.
Safety Tigi Hill, another senior, was encouraged by a show of support from his peers when they gathered for an impromptu assembly on the field when the news hit.
"All the teachers and students just came," Hill said. "We were just eating on the field and we saw everyone coming."
"They just left class," Tafuna added.
"That’s what’s different about our school. We’re not like any other school," co-captain Christopher Thee said. "School is life, at school and after school."
Torres has longed to see humility and unity take the forefront at a school where he has coached since 1985. To a man, each player handled the stunning news with poise. Disappointment, yes, but they’re handling their only defeat, so to speak, with composure.
Thee, Tafuna and fellow co-captain Punga Vea rode down to the OIA office to offer input on the matter yesterday, but were not allowed to step into the meeting. They waited outside while principal Donna Lindsey pleaded Kahuku’s case. She broke the news to them a short time later.
The co-captains were still almost speechless, thinking about their journey into town.
"It was disappointing. Life is what it is," Thee said. "You’ve gotta accept it."