Players Test Skills in Football Showcase
Competing in one of two Hawaii eight-player football leagues, Molokai rarely gets the chance to test itself against neighbor island teams in a sport without a state championship. However, at a football showcase on Oahu from June 5-7, the Farmers got to rub shoulder pads with scores of the state’s best athletes and take tips from some of the nation’s top college coaches.
Maximum Exposure Camp, put on by Hawaii’s Gridiron Performance Academy, helps players hone fundamentals while connecting with college coaches. In its second time at the camp, Molokai brought nine players, the most out of any Maui Interscholastic League school.
“You had to work really hard to impress the coaches,” said Molokai defensive back William Dela Cruz. “… It was a good experience to challenge yourself to know where you rank in the state.”
More than 480 players came from Hawaii, the West Coast, Guam and American Samoa. Throughout the three-day camp, players participated in conditioning and position-specific drills. On Sunday, players were selected for a 7-on-7 showcase scrimmage that included Molokai’s Decker Bicoy and Dela Cruz. The competition, said Molokai players, was “intense.”
“Those quarterbacks over there, their skill level is super high, and they’re very talented,” said Molokai quarterback John-Michael Mokiao-Duvauchelle. “… When you have competition it brings out the best in you.”
At this year’s camp, there were also more than 80 coaches from nearly 35 NCAA and NAIA colleges, including AP Top 25 finishers Oregon, Arizona, Arizona State, and the University of Southern California.
“[Coaches] couldn’t believe how much talent there was in one camp,” said former NFL trainer Chad Ikei, one of the event’s organizers. “… A lot of our kids can’t afford to go to mainland to do this type of networking for themselves.”
The Hawaii-born Ikei said he’d been seeing many skilled local football players getting overlooked for scholarships. A couple of years ago, he helped put together the Maximum Exposure Camp and invited college coaches to come scout out island talent, as well as offer their own expertise.
“What’s great about it as is a lot of the college coaches are actually getting [into the drills] and … so the kids are exposed to high quality coaches and getting really specific feedback,” said Molokai Head Coach Mike Kahale.
Coaches also got a chance to speak to players outside of drills, and Kahale said they offered lessons that included concentrating on getting good grades.
The players are continuing to build their recruiting portfolios. A week before the Maximum Exposure Camp, Dela Cruz and wide receiver Kaimana Kahale attended the PIAA Combine along with nearly 200 Hawaii high school football players. They were timed and measured in typical combine events like the 40-yard dash and the vertical leap.
With the work that the Molokai coaches and players are putting in, Ikei said it will all pay off for the Farmers, who finished second in the league last season.
“If [Molokai] continues to do what they do as team and in the classroom, they should be an eight-man team to be reckoned with,” he said. “If and when win they win the eight-man championship, it shouldn’t be a surprise.”