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Hawaii's visit to Maui a win for school, isle


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POSTED: Sunday, April 12, 2009

WAILUKU » The circus came to town.

And it was free of charge.

There would've been more than a couple of thousand people at Maui's War Memorial Stadium for the University of Hawaii football team's first scrimmage of the spring. But tough competition abounded for family outings yesterday: a big wrestling tournament, youth baseball games and an Easter egg hunt, all within a mile of the stadium.

Still, a good turnout. And quite the lovefest. A lot of this was about UH saying thank you to Maui for its continued support of the Warriors. Sure, dashes of marketing and promotion, but the main idea was a Fan Appreciation Day for those who rarely get this close to their favorite college football team.

“;This is a big thing for Maui, to see these guys,”; said Maui policeman Jayson Rego, who wasn't talking just about his son of the same name, a senior running back for UH.

Rego Jr., a.k.a. “;Baba,”; had about a hundred friends and relatives on hand. My colleague, Rob Collias of The Maui News, invented a new word: Regocentric. That's kind of how I thought it might be, lots of cheering for the Wailuku boy, but not so much for the other running backs.

As it turns out, they couldn't get enough of all of the Warriors—especially Inoke Funaki, the latest in a line of about 20 guys who over the years have been ahead of Rego on the depth chart.

Rego is a hard-nosed runner, a low-to-the-ground bowling ball of power. His carries yesterday were not given to him because he's the hometown boy, no way. The player who led Kamehameha to a state championship should play a bigger role in the UH backfield this fall, finally—after four long years of waiting.

Funaki, converting from quarterback, looks like he might have been at the wrong position all this time. He's a slasher, but on one play yesterday he turned crasher. Smelling the goal line, the 190-pound Funaki katooshed safety Rykin Enos, who's not a small lad by any means at two bills.

It was Bo Jackson-Brian Bosworth, except Funaki didn't run out of the stadium.

'Noks knows.

“;I'm nothing like Bo Jackson—he was a beast,”; Funaki said, laughing. “;But I know what play you're talking about, saw it on ESPN Classic. I'm a classic kind of guy.”;

Not everyone can get away with saying something like that. But Funaki knows the joke's on everyone when a guy closing in on 50 calls him an old man because he's got a year or five on his teammates, and is aware of a Monday Night Football play from 1987.

He's been around long enough to know this is just one scrimmage, and in the next one it may be Enos laying the wood on him.

As for Rego, sure, he enjoyed his April homecoming dance. But if this is the peak of his football year, he'll be very disappointed, and so will others.

“;It was amazing, a great feeling,”; said the guy who grew up a 5-minute bike ride from this stadium. “;But it's football, so you compete every day. You compete to prepare yourself for another day.”;