The first time Teila Huni walked onto the field at Aloha Stadium, he was in awe. The Red Raiders were ranked No. 1 and were playing in the the state championship game — a Neighbor Island first — against King Kekaulike High School.
“I’d never got to step on the field before, so when we walked through the big tunnel and into the stadium, it was surreal,” said the Kaua‘i High School middle linebacker.
At the time, he was only a sophomore who had just been moved up from the junior varsity team to varsity for the playoffs. His first official varsity game came in the post-season against Waipahu High School at Vidinha Stadium. When the Red Raiders defeated the O‘ahu Interscholastic Association Division II champs the Marauders 17-6, they earned the championship berth, sharing that history with the eventual champions King Kekaulike.
Stepping onto the field is still his favorite moment of his football career.
“You always see (Aloha Stadium) on TV and when we got there it was exciting,” he said.
The Raiders suffered a devastating loss then, but Huni and his teammates were determined to make it back to that stadium. He was so determined that he and his teammate Chris Honorato created this special handshake to do before each game.
Then the Raiders went on to go 5-1 in the regular season, 8-2 overall and captured the Kaua‘i Interscholastic Federation championship and another state tournament berth.
They defeated Roosevelt High School 40-9 in the first round and advanced to the semifinals to play second-ranked ‘Iolani School where they lost 35-21.
“That was kind of a heartbreaker because we knew we had a chance to win and get to another championship game. I really wanted to go back,” Huni said.
What happened? He doesn’t really know, but that game is another reason why that handshake between him and Honorato is so important.
“We never did it for the Iolani game, and we lost. We make sure we do it before every game now,” he said. “Hopefully, this year we can go back.”
They have a very good chance to do so, if the preseason win or the fact that they have 35 experienced seniors have anything to do with it.
Among his duties as a senior linebacker, aside from blocking, he is also one of the co-captains for the team. It’s a leadership role he enjoys in the game.
“I try to lead the team and pump them up,” he said. “This team is much closer than teams from before and we do everything together. We’ve been playing (football) together since Pop Warner days and we have that cohesiveness we need for a team. That’s very important because we’re one team working for one goal and that’s to make it to the championship.”
Head coach Derek Borrero said Huni’s leadership ability is what he’s strongest at.
“(He) possesses that silent leadership. He’s not extremely vocal, he handles himself on the field in a way that allows other kids to gravitate to him,” Borrero said. “He’s one of those kids everyone loves to coach. He’s easy to get along with.”
But another thing that makes Huni stand out is his ability to handle pressure. He’s a good student in the classroom (3.6 grade point average) and knows how to balance his school work and practices.
“I basically wake up, go to school, go to practice, go home and do my homework, then go to sleep. Then the next day, I do it again. It’s like a routine,” he said.
He said that there is some pressure in being the defending KIF champions and being a part of a program that has won it four years in a row.
“There is a little pressure in that we’re seniors and we don’t want to be known as the class that broke the string of championships,” he said.
He also has a personal goal to play his best this year and possibly earn himself a college scholarship for football. He spoke with a number of West Coast colleges and he remains positive about his future.
The Raiders have one more preseason game at 7 p.m. tonight against Serra High School at Vidinha Stadium, with their regular season starting Sept. 19.
Family: Parents Kaydee and Talisiu Huni, brother Daylin, sister Shaylee
Sports: Football, basketball
Favorite football player: Brian Urlacher, middle linebacker Chicago Bears