HANAPEPE — Stars are made, they say, on the big stage.
Names become household when athletes seize the moment under the brightest of lights.
The 33 players for the Koloa Redskins Mitey Mite team were offered just that opportunity when they were invited to cleat-up on the biggest Hawaiian football venue.
They’re going to Aloha Stadium, the first Kauai team in 13 years to earn the honor of playing at the University of Hawaii’s home field.
“The Mitey Mites don’t have any titles outside of the league, so to be invited to play at Aloha Stadium is big,” Kauai Pop Warner Football League Commissioner Teddy Arroyo said about the unbeaten team heading to Honolulu. “To be invited to play at Aloha Stadium is a huge opportunity for the players.”
The game will be Saturday, Nov. 24.
The team earned the invite after some Oahu Pop Warner officials were on Kauai and saw the local talent play. It’ll be the first Kauai team to make the trip since 2000.
And the players are excited, they said. Ready for the competition, but excited.
“I found out that we were going to play where the Warriors play, I feel so happy.” said Ryson Waalani, a 9-year-old running back and safety, whose favorite part of football is to “run the ball and tackle people.” “Because, like, it’s a big stadium we can play in.”
But will the 50,000-seat-stadium suited for major college football and the NFL’s Pro Bowl be too big for the Kauai team?
“We’ll be ready to play a game,” Waalani said coolly.
Now, traveling is what the team has to tackle.
Tara Fernandez, president of the Koloa Pop Warner Association, said the team is thrilled with the invitation to play on the Rainbow Warrior’s home turf, but they have to raise funds to ensure the whole team can get there.
“That’s a whole new ball game,” Fernandez said. “Now, they need help to get to the stadium.”
Redskins Mitey Mite Head Coach Kealii Inouye, a former Kauai High School standout, said the team has a scheduled the usual car washes, bake sales and more to help get the players and their families to Honolulu for kickoff.
“We have 33 players on the team, but because of their age, we are looking at about 66 people, including chaperones, traveling,” Inouye said. “It’s a large group, but this is quite an honor. We need to work hard to get the players there.”
Billy DeCosta, a Redskins Mitey Mite team parent, said the team is planning on hosting a night at the Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall, where people can help the team while enjoying entertainment, food and fun.
More details will be forthcoming as arrangements are firmed up, DeCosta said.
Arroyo, whose son Keenan plays with the Kaiser Cougars, unofficially ranked No. 4 in Division 2 high school football, said Oahu Pop Warner officials were impressed with local talent and the Kauai Pop Warner Football League’s hospitality.
It pays to be a good host. Plus, an undefeated 5-0 record doesn’t hurt, either.
“I just want to see how big it is, said Nakoa Andrade, a 9-year-old Redskin receiver, whose favorite thing about football is “making touchdowns,” about seeing the stadium up close and personal.
“I was excited,” he said about his initial reaction to the news, adding that he wants to play for the University of football one day
Added 9-year-old Nalu Aguano, a cornerback and receiver, who loves intercepting opponent quarterbacks: “I like the University of Hawaii.”
“I want to say, thank you to everyone,” he said about the opportunity to play at the school.
“Go Redskins,” he added.
The excitement does not only take place on Oahu, Arroyo said.
“We’ll be hosting a day of football games in Kekaha,” Arroyo said about the Oct. 26 event, held the day before the islandwide Pop Warner Cheerleading competition. “This is a throwback to the old days of up-close football. More importantly, it gives support to the town of Kekaha.”
Earlier in the year, Arroyo spent several weeks trying to firm up the Kekaha Titans Junior Peewee team after dwindling numbers threatened to end the team.
The Kekaha Titans Mitey Mites will take on the Lihue Patriots in the 8 a.m. opener during the October game day, followed by the Kekaha Titans JPW hosting the Lihue Patriots JPW in the 10 a.m. kickoff.
The KPWFL islandwide cheerleading competition will be held at the Clem Gomes Gym on the campus of Waimea High School, Oct. 27 with the starting time to be announced at a later date.
Arroyo said as the league winds down, the KPWFL has re-named the annual bowl games to the Harold Naumu Bowl in tribute of all the work put in by Naumu for Pop Warner football.
“We’ve gotten a lot of interest in the Harold Naumu Bowl and KPWFL has scheduled two days in the event it needs to be extended,” Arroyo said. “Right now, we’ve had inquiries from neighbor island and even Mainland teams.”
People wishing to help the Koloa Redskins Mitey Mites with their opportunity can call Inouye at 635-2762, or Arroyo at 634-5635.
• Tom Hasslinger contributed to this report.