KEKAHA — Seventeen Kekaha Titan Jr. Pee Wee players will take the field at Hanapepe Stadium Saturday.
The number is a far cry from the original turnout, and just makes the minimum number for a team in the Kauai Pop Warner Football League.
“This is more than winning a football game, or a championship,” said KPWFL commissioner Teddy Arroyo who has been working with the Kekaha Pop Warner Association to bolster the JPW football team. “This is about representing the community of Kekaha. We’re going to make this work — whatever it takes — this is going to work.”
Pam Arroyo, the KPWFL president, said when the fall tackle football season got underway on Aug. 1, there were less than a dozen players registered for the JPW team.
“The sad thing is if the team goes, it’s going to be very hard to form another program,” Pam said. “We want Kekaha to be represented.”
The Kekaha team has been plagued with low turnout, and two years ago midway through the season, the Kekaha team had to be merged with the Hanapepe Colts after the team numbers dropped below the minimum number of players, Teddy said.
The commissioner has been visiting the field, working with Galen Alvarez, the head coach for the JPW Kekaha Titans and the president of the Kekaha Pop Warner Association.
“Look at all the cheer girls,” Teddy said. “They have a lot of girls turning out. If the football team folds, it’s going to impact the cheer squad.”
Slowly, the squad built on its numbers, getting the total up to 17 registered players.
“Unfortunately, not all can come to practice, regularly,” Teddy said. “We have students from the Hawaiian school who come later in practice, and there are some kids who can’t make it because of illness. But, we have a team, and if you take into account the variables through the season, we’re going to make this work.”
Jr. Lazaro, an assistant JPW coach, said part of the reason for the declining numbers is the team lost eight players to other leagues because of weight.
“Last year, our line averaged 100 pounds per boy,” Lazaro said. “Under Pop Warner rules, boys need to weigh between 85 to 105 pounds. We have big boys.”
Lazaro said the Kekaha Titans JPW team is still accepting players between ages 9 through 11 who want to play football.
New players will have to undergo 10 hours of conditioning and 10 hours of contact before they get to take the field in game competition, but they will have an opportunity to play, Lazaro said.
Teddy said the other associations — Kapaa, Lihue, Koloa and Hanapepe — all are fielding teams beyond the 16-player minimum for JPW.
“If we have to go to an 8-, 7-, or even 6-player game format, it’s going to work,” Teddy said. “This is a life lesson for the boys. One day, they’re going to look at this and remember how they did it in football. Whatever it takes, this is going to work.”
The Kauai Pop Warner Football League celebrates the opening of its fall tackle football season Saturday starting at 8 a.m. at the Hanapepe Stadium with its annual Jamboree.
The public is invited to view the five Kauai Pop Warner associations’ tackle football teams in the Mitey Mite, JPW and Junior Midget divisions along with the accompanying cheer squads.
Players interested in playing for the Kekaha Titans JPW can show up at the Faye Park practices.
Lazaro said this week, the team will be practicing every day through Friday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Following the Jamboree on Saturday, practices will be held three days a week from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
• Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.