LIHU‘E — County Councilmember Billy DeCosta’s voice could not conceal the excitement he felt when the Vidinha Stadium lights clicked on Friday night as the Kaua‘i 7 on 7 Linemen Challenge presented six two-hand-touch football games.
Spectators who were restricted to outside the stadium playing area lost little time establishing their camps, some firing up the Hibachi for hot snacks while watching the games. No spectators are allowed inside the stadium, the bleacher area reserved on teams on tap for their games and authorized game personnel.
Playing under a 28-minute running clock, the two-hand-touch games are the first football games to take the field since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the fields and athletic programs last year. The games were played only after the Tier 3 modifications proposed by Mayor Derek Kawakami received Gov. David Ige’s approval late Thursday afternoon.
Other youth football league programs like Kaua‘i Youth Football emptied their practice fields once the uptick in cases started shutting down select business establishments around the island. The fields remained empty through the weekend despite the governor’s approval of the new Tier 3 guidelines that allowed for youth sports following COVID-19 protocols.
“Our focus is on the kids and letting them play,” said Teddy Arroyo, a coach with Red ‘Ohana team and Triple K Strongmen Athletics, the program’s umbrella. “We’re trying to keep the kids safe. That’s our No. 1 priority.”
Games are played on half the traditional field, each team starting midfield and attempting to get to the end zone through a passing game. If the defending team is successful in preventing the offensive team from securing a first down or touchdown, it takes the midfield starting line. Scoring points is similar to the traditional game with the exception of an interception, which counts as three points without needing to advance the ball. The controlling team takes over from the midfield starting point.
Participating teams include Kapa‘a with coach Michael Tressler and company, The Unit with Coach Kyle Linoz and company, and Derrick Borrero joins the Red ‘Ohana program. Players come from the public schools of age to participate in junior varsity and varsity football.
Playing under the auspices of U.S. Flag football, Arroyo said the Kaua‘i 7 on 7 Linemen Challenge is allowing eighth-grade students and, on Kaua‘i, allowing rushing the quarterback.
The games continue Friday at the Bryan Baptiste Sports Complex stadium, starting at 5 p.m.