Damien parentsDamien Memorial High School varsity football players and their parents finally got a chance to dissuade the school's president from forfeiting a game against St. Louis next season, but came away disappointed.
Brother O'Donnell stands byForfeit prompts ILH changes
the school's decision to not play
football against St. Louis School
By Jason Kaneshiro
Brother Gregory O'Donnell met with Monarch players and their parents and coaches in a closed-door meeting in the school's library yesterday afternoon. He stood by the Damien administration's decision to cancel the Interscholastic League of Honolulu varsity football game.
"It was very emotional," O'Donnell said. "We have a lot of lovely kids with great parents who are intensely interested in their sons, and they'd love to have the young men play. But I had to tell them at this point I'm not in a position to reverse the decision."
Yesterday's meeting was the first opportunity for players and parents to address the administration about the forfeit.
"(The parents) didn't get the direct answer they wanted to hear. That's not what the meeting was for," said Damien Athletic Director Herb Lloyd. "The meeting was just to exchange ideas and sit down and hear what they have to say."
Before the meeting a group of parents circulated a petition to reinstate the game and distributed a survey to the players asking whether they understand the risks of playing football.
Those in attendance said the meeting went smoothly until some heated moments toward the end of the session.
Kalei Meheula, president of the Damien football parents club Ka Lokahi O Ka Poni A Kula ("The Unity of Purple and Gold"), was among the parents dissatisfied by the outcome of the meeting.
"This has been a rivalry for St. Louis and Damien for many years," said Meheula, who has two sons on the team. "If my boys were not so in love with Damien, I would have pulled my two sons out tonight."
Several parents questioned the reasoning for the forfeit. In a letter sent to St. Louis President Allen DeLong last week, O'Donnell pointed to safety concerns inherent in pitting an inexperienced Damien squad against the powerful Crusaders as the primary reason for pulling out of the game.
"Everybody understands the risk involved as far as injury," said Keith Souza, a Damien graduate and parent of a current player. "But what's the difference between a St. Louis or a Kamehameha when you're Damien?"
But O'Donnell said the intensity of rivalry between the two Catholic all-boys schools sets the Damien-St. Louis game apart from others.
"When we got out there," O'Donnell said, "the kids from Damien play with a ferocity, and the St. Louis kids play with it. But when you put that ingredient into a physical mismatch, that's a formula for a situation I think is too risky in this one particular year."
Meheula said she was concerned about the emotional scars left on her children by not taking the field.
"My boys have to take the harassment for the (administration's) decision," she said.