Kalani Simpson


By Kalani Simpson

Wednesday, July 11, 2001

Pass league offers
a vision of hope
for young Monarchs

THE world didn't come to an end yesterday. There were no riots, no fights. No controversy, but for a few out-of-bounds calls or the odd shove.

There were no protests, no contention, no awkwardness, no major injuries, no new league rules, no rides to the hospital in the back of an ambulance by either school president.

There was no contact.

It was only a pass league game, a mere scrimmage, after all.

But it was the first time Damien and St. Louis had met each other on the football field since the big brouhaha over Interscholastic League of Honolulu forfeits. And quite possibly their first and only meeting for at least a year.

"We don't know that yet," Damien coach Chris Bisho said.

True. Damien president Brother Gregory O'Donnell has backtracked from his position on that, leaving the door open a crack. But still, as of now, the games are off. And there had been lots of talk by Damien players and parents that their dream was to play St. Louis, and much lamenting that their dreams had been taken away. But now here they were, with possibly their one and only shot at St. Louis.

Think it didn't mean something?

Think they weren't psyched?

Maybe for a few minutes. Maybe for the odd second or two. Maybe they had one heck of a pre-game warm-up. But be real -- this is a two-hand-touch, 7-on-7, no-pads pass league game.

It's like a flight simulator. It helps you get better. It builds important skills. It's a learning experience. But it's miles from the real thing.

It's not quite football. And the kids know it.

But the differences were in the fans and parents. The St. Louis regulars took their familiar perch above their home field or lounged comfortably in a corner of the Field Turf. They were there to talk story, to eye prospects for the upcoming season, to see how the boys were shaping up.

The Damien faithful, newly fired up by the recent firestorm, showed up solidly behind their team, wearing school colors and erupting with spontaneous applause, cheers and the occasional standing ovation with a completed pass.

They took this showdown a little more seriously.

For St. Louis, it was a summer scrimmage.

For Damien, this was a dream.

(Or at least the watered-down flight simulator version of it.)

BUT BROTHER O'DONNELL was right when he said his team was younger, smaller and more inexperienced than St. Louis. They are younger, smaller and more inexperienced than St. Louis. Yikes. Damien is young. Or at least they look young. You have rubber slippers older than these guys.

And St. Louis has people who can motor. They can lose you while going in motion. They can break tackles in two-hand touch; they'll make you miss completely.

Even in a non-contact situation, St. Louis' physical superiority takes its toll in the second half.

They dive for touchdowns. The bounces go their way. Wounded ducks fall from the sky and into their arms.

They are, pass league or not, still St. Louis.

And so the Damien parents are delirious with every first down.

But the Monarchs give their crowd reason to yell. A lot of reasons. They move the ball. Sure, St. Louis might mention, when you can't kill the quarterback or decapitate the receiver it's much, much easier to complete passes. But still. The Monarchs are showing signs of life.

This is all in the plan, and Bisho is ecstatic. He craves this kind of improvement. His Monarchs will get better and better. He will help them build from the ground up. They will take step by step in the slow, steady process toward becoming winners. It's not easy, he says, but it's happening.

This is what pass league games are about, and he saw some of that yesterday. He is excited. He has a vision, he says, of Damien football success. Not a dream, but a vision.

"I can already see it," he says.

St. Louis is vastly superior, in all areas. St. Louis is still the king. No controversy, no riots, no contest. But in the "B" half of these pass league games, things are much, much closer.

Damien parents are asking for the score. Scores don't mean anything in two-hand-touch, 7-on-7, no-pads pass league games in the middle of summer. This is just for practice. But the parents, wearing their purple and gold, ask anyway. They are looking for something to hang onto. After all that's happened, they are asking for some hope.

They should talk to their coach. He'll give them plenty.

Kalani Simpson's column runs Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays.
He can be reached at

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