Football is primarily a young man’s sport, but blasts from the past David Maeva and George Noga weren’t about to pass up the opportunity to put on helmets and shoulder pads once again.
The two former University of Hawaii standouts are playing in the Hawaii Pro Football League, which kicked off its season with a doubleheader Friday at Aloha Stadium.
The league’s four teams are the Honolulu Volcanoes, Kailua Storm, Koolau Hurricanes and Waianae Sharks.
Maeva, whose nickname is "Mento," was a linebacker for the Rainbows from 1987 to ’90. The 42-year-old is a linebacker and linebackers coach for the Storm.
"Naturally everyone is like ‘Dave, you’re too old, you’re going to get hurt,’ " said Maeva, a Kamehameha Schools alum. "But the reality is I got hurt when I was young. I get hurt because that’s the way I play. I’m going to play full speed, I’m going to play until I break. That’s how football is played."
Maeva, who played five years in the Canadian Football League, has stayed in shape by coaching his son, Dane, and through standup paddling.
He said he’ll see spot duty for the Storm as "the last guy in" on defense.
The 38-year-old Noga, a Saint Louis School alum, was a defensive lineman for UH from 1993 to ’95. He is playing for the Hurricanes.
"It’s just like playing with anybody else, like 10, 15 years ago. The game is still the same," said Noga, who also played in the CFL. "It is good exercise for me and my kids enjoy seeing their dad in action."
A VIABLE PRODUCT?
HPFL founder and commissioner Carson Peapealalo said he first thought about starting an Oahu-based professional football league five or six years ago.
There have been other professional football teams in Hawaii, including a few 8-on-8 indoor franchises, but they all folded, with travel costs to the mainland playing a major factor.
The Volcanoes’ Darrick Branch is the only owner/head coach in the league.
"This league is only going to go as far as our players and the community want it to go," said Branch, a former UH receiver. "We put it out there, we did what we needed to do to make it a viable product."
About 150 fans attended Friday’s doubleheader at Aloha Stadium. Koolau beat Honolulu 22-6, and Waianae defeated Kailua 33-12.
All other games will be at Pearl City, Waipahu or Radford high school.
Peapealalo said 280 players participated in tryouts for the league. Those who made the cut will earn $50 to $100 per game, plus incentives, according to Peapealalo.
Reaching the NFL or another high-profile professional league is unlikely for any of the players, but Peapealalo is hopeful it will happen.
"We’re trying to help them get to the next level," he said. "If it happens, it happens, and we pray it does."
A majority of the HPFL’s players graduated from local high schools, with each team’s roster having a handful of former UH players and others who competed at mainland colleges.
"It’s a good thing for Hawaii, especially the young cats getting out of high school and college," the Hurricanes’ Noga said of the league. "They can get some experience."
Jason Rivers, a receiver for the Hurricanes, played for UH from 2003 to ’04 and 2006 to ’07. He received a free-agent invitation with the Tennessee Titans, but was cut during training camp. For now, Rivers is perfectly content to play in the HPFL.
"To be quite honest, this is the perfect opportunity," said Rivers, a Saint Louis School alum. "I’ve talked to several people about my involvement in this league for a while. I get to kill two birds with one stone. I love to play football and I get to stay here where my family is at. Being away from my son is very hard."
Whitley Fehoko, a lineman for the Volcanoes, graduated from Farrington High, played one season at San Diego State, then attended El Camino College in California.
"It feels great to be back at Aloha Stadium," Fehoko said. "It’s great to play in front of your family. That’s a big motivation for me. I’m looking forward to it."
Other noteworthy players in the league are receiver Chad Mock of the Hurricanes; offensive lineman Keoni Steinhoff of the Storm; defensive backs Nate Jackson and Chris Paogofie, and linebacker George Kauwalu of the Sharks; and linebacker/defensive lineman Joe Correia of the Volcanoes.
The league also provides high school head coaches a chance to gain experience and kill the offseason doldrums.
Leilehua’s Nolan Tokuda is the Sharks offensive coordinator, Mililani’s Rod York is the Sharks defensive coordinator and Kalaheo’s Chris Mellor is the head coach/offensive coordinator for the Storm.
"It’s better than being at home doing chores," Tokuda said. "Being away from football since November you need your football fix, and this is my fix right here."
Since many of the league’s players have college experience, Tokuda said he can "expand the playbook."
Maeva, the Storm’s player/coach, was the head football coach at Kaiser High from 2001 to ’04. He is in the unique situation of playing with and against two guys he coached in high school. Quarterback Shannon Wise is a Storm teammate, while Waikaloa Noa is a receiver for the Volcanoes.
"It’s good to be around kids I coached, kids I watched on TV, kids that I watched at UH," Maeva said. "I’m like a little kid right now playing with all these guys, mentally-wise, not age-wise."
at Aloha Stadium
» Waianae 41, Koolau 12
» Kailua 25, Honolulu 6
at Aloha Stadium
» Koolau 22, Honolulu 6
» Waianae 33, Kailua 12
» Kailua vs. Koolau, 4 p.m., Pearl City High.
» Waianae vs. Honolulu, 7 p.m., Pearl City High.
» Kailua vs. Waianae, 7 p.m., Waipahu High.
» Honolulu vs. Koolau, 7 p.m., Pearl City High.
» Koolau vs. Waianae, 7 p.m., Waipahu High.
» Honolulu vs. Kailua, 7 p.m., Pearl City High.
» Kailua vs. Koolau, 7 p.m., Waipahu High.
» Waianae vs. Honolulu, 7 p.m., Radford High.
» Leeward teams TBA, 8 p.m., Radford High.
» Windward teams TBA, 8 p.m., Radford High.
» Teams TBA, 7:30 p.m., Radford High.
Day-of-game ticket prices
» $12 adults, $8 senior citizens, disabled, high school students and military with ID, $7 ages 6-12, free ages 5 and under
Ticket prices at hawaiiprofootball.com
» $10.50 adults, $8 senior citizens, disabled, high school students and military with ID, $5.25 ages 6-12, free ages 5 and under
Notable league rules:
» No touchbacks on kickoffs unless the ball bounces out of the end zone
» Same overtime rules as college football
» End-zone and sideline celebrations are allowed. No excessive celebration penalty.
» 3-point conversion after touchdown can be incorporated. Ball placed on 10-yard line.