‘This is not football — this is family’

HANAPEPE — The Kauai Pop Warner Football League started its 2016 season on Aug. 1, but the Hanapepe Colts were delayed from using its home field because of the 41st annual Hawaii Seniors softball tournament.

“We’ve had conditioning for the past several weeks and opened it to the community,” said Cherie Linoz, the Hanapepe Pop Warner Association president. “They’ve had time to get excited about being involved with the Hanapepe Colt program. But now, it’s time to get the paperwork going and make things official. The Pop Warner Jamboree is on Sept. 3.”

The community invitation must have worked because the Hanapepe Colts started with one of the bigger enrollments in the KPWFL, made up of five associations.

“We’re the biggest association on the island with 150 students,” said Kylie Linoz, Colts’ football coordinator. “Considering that we’re working against other programs and sports, this is huge for us.”

Cherie said the enrollment includes 56 students from 5 years old taking part in the Hanapepe Colt Cheer program spread out among Mitey Mite, Tiny Mites, Junior PeeWee, and Junior Varsity, formerly known as Junior Midget, programs.

The tackle football program includes 76 students spread out among Mitey Mite, Junior PeeWee and Junior Varsity teams.

“This is going to grow,” Cherie said. “Brand new for this year is the addition of the NFL flag football program. We have 15 players here, today, but that number is expected to grow. I’m so glad they introduced this program because now, it allows young boys from ages 5, 6, and 7 years old an opportunity to become involved with Pop Warner football.”

With the strong enrollment, come issues which need addressing.

“We’ve had to buy new equipment,” Cherie said. “We’ve reconditioned the ones we have, but had to get new equipment to take care of the additional participants. We’ve had fundraisers, and we are so grateful for the community support we’ve received from everyone.”

Cherie said she is proud of the fact that there are girls participating in every phase of Hanapepe Colts football — not just cheer.

“It makes me feel so good that parents have confidence and faith in Hanapepe Colts that they allow their children to grow up with us,” Cherie said. “We must be doing something right. I’m also very proud to say that we have girls participating in all of the teams. Hanapepe Colts must be doing something that give the girls enough confidence in us to participate in tackle football.”

Among the young people taking the field, Ashlyn Agena, an eighth-grade student at the Waimea Canyon Middle School, came on the field as a National Pop Warner All American Scholar, an honor that earned her a trip to the national Pop Warner conference at Disney World in Florida.

Agena said she’s been in the Pop Warner program for the past six years, earning scholastic awards in each of the years she’s been cheering.

“I don’t do anything special,” Agena said. “I just do my work.”

Cherie said Agena’s brother Corey was a Pop Warner All American, and as an eighth grader, became eligible for scholarships. This opportunity awaits Ashlyn who starts the season as an eighth grader.

“We did some research on this,” Cherie said. “As far as we could find, Ashlyn is the only one in Hawaii to earn this All American First Team honor. It’s been more than five years since Hawaii has had a student named to this honor.”

Kylie said the goal of Hanapepe Colts is for participants to be a better youth.

“‘Win’ is taboo for Colts,” Kylie said. “We stress the accumulation of hard work and preparation. Just like the days I played football at Waimea High School, this is not football — this is family.”

The football coordinator said Pop Warner football is opportunity for young people. For the cheer participants, winners of the islandwide cheer competition at the Junior PeeWee and Junior Midget levels earn the right to advance to the National Pop Warner competition in Florida.

For football players, there is an opportunity for a berth to Florida for the Junior Varsity teams, and a chance to earn a berth to Las Vegas, Nevada for the Junior PeeWee teams.

“The big thing we stress is Unit Team Colt,” Cherie said. “We’re made up of different teams, but in the end, we are all Hanapepe Pop Warner.”

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