Buckeye football team headed to Hawaii

JOSEPH PEREZ, left, of Buckeye hands off to Jaiden Segundo during a home game last season. Perez and Segundo are two of the 50 Hawks football players who will be traveling to Hawaii for a football game this August. View photo by Michael Rincon
JOSEPH PEREZ, left, of Buckeye hands off to Jaiden Segundo during a home game last season. Perez and Segundo are two of the 50 Hawks football players who will be traveling to Hawaii for a football game this August. View photo by Michael Rincon

Hawks’ players to get educational experience in addition to game

Buckeye's football team will be saying aloha to Hawaii this August. The Hawks are playing a zero week football game in Honolulu in a chance of a lifetime opportunity.

We were just looking to do something that's not happening on the west side,” Buckeye coach Kelley Moore said. “Maybe [Peoria] Centennial plays someone every once in a while, I don't know, but it doesn't seem like somebody on the west side of town does this, it seems like it's always on the east side. So, this might have been an opportunity to be different. That's all we're trying to do, elevate our community, our school, and maybe the west side.”

Fifty members of the football team will depart for Honolulu Aug. 16 and return Aug. 21. The students will miss four days of classroom instruction, but Moore has plans in place to give an educational experience to the athletes while in Hawaii. The team will visit Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial, they'll go to the Punchbowl Crater and see the National Memorial Cemetary of the Pacific and they'll make a trip to the Polynesian Cultural Center.

We're going to play a football game, but what's unique about this is what our football team, athletes and coaches, are going to be able to experience in an educational setting,” Buckeye Athletic Director Pat Witter said. “Moore is going to be working with each of the athletes in order for them to basically maintain a journal of the things they're going to visit and see.”

Darzell Smith, a senior running back and defensive back for the Hawks, said it should be a great educational experience.

They're making us write essays, which isn't going to be fun at the moment, but in the long term, it's going to help us a lot in understanding Hawaii and what happened at Pearl Harbor,” Smith said. “It's going to be a fun experience to enjoy with my teammates.”

The football team Buckeye will play is Kailua High School in Kailua, Hawaii. The inspiration behind the game came from the fact that two of Moore's assistant coaches at Buckeye, Kalani Ellis and Puni Ellis, are from that area.

It's an opportunity for them to go home and show the home folks what they're doing,” Moore said. “They're so steeped in Buckeye and instrumental in what's going on around here. They coach little kids, high school, they're in baseball, softball, basketball, football; they're in everything. It's an amazing family.”

Putting the trip together

Planning the game and the trip was one thing, but getting it approved, which just happened last month, was another story. That process has been in the works for a year, Witter said. There was even talks that another West Valley school might join Buckeye.

At one point, we were talking with [Peoria] Sunrise Mountain as a possibility … for their high school, it turned out to be something they weren't able to do,” Witter said.

That's when Buckeye went another route.

We went to the region, as well as the 4A conference and let them know what we were trying to do, which is basically, we've added another game,” Witter said.

Buckeye will now have an 11-game schedule, with the game in Hawaii not counting toward power points. Buckeye had to get approval from the 4A conference and the Arizona Interscholastic Association's executive board, but it passed unanimously, Witter said.

It's an incredible thing,” Moore said. “No. 1, the boys and the coaches have been praying about this. We were believing the answer to be yes before anybody voted on anything. So, it was a great demonstration of faith in our locker room, so that's been phenomenal. Since that has happened, now what we're hoping is the community will get behind this and help with the promotion of this, obviously in the way of finances. We want to elevate the school and the community. It's not just about the football team.”

The fundraising process began before Buckeye got approval for the trip, otherwise it would have been extremely difficult to reach the amount it needs. The cost is $1,500 per person, so with 50 student athletes traveling, Buckeye needs to raise $75,000. That amount covers everything, Moore said.

We had target dates for money,” Moore said. “The kids reached the first target date, or we would have canceled the thing. Now, we're committed fully.”

The fundraising activities have mostly included “nickel and dime stuff,” Moore said.

Candies, car washes, cupcakes, you name it,” Moore said. “The kids have to earn their keep.”

Buckeye has also held a golf tournament, and the students have helped out at rodeos to raise money.

Whatever we can do, we've been doing it,” Moore said.

Smith said the fundraising has been fun, and it's been a blessing that the school and community has shown so much support.

Not many people get to go to Hawaii ever in their lifetime, so I'd like to thank Buckeye for what they've provided us,” Smith said. “They gave us the opportunity to raise money to be able to go to Hawaii.”

As far as the game is concerned, Smith expects a difficult challenge from Kailua. Buckeye has already started preparing for next season with off-season conditioning and spring football.

We're preparing right now, we've been doing our workout plans the right way; we're doing everything to prepare for Hawaii,” Smith said. “This year has felt so different from years past, because we haven't looked forward to an opponent like we are facing in Hawaii. It's going to be a challenge, a different breed of players.”

For Moore, the most important part in putting this together is the opportunity its affording his student athletes.

Most of our kids may never go back to Hawaii, so this is an experience of a lifetime,” Moore said. “To see that kind of history in reality is priceless. Plus, we get to play a football game, which is amazing.”

After returning from Hawaii, the Hawks have to take on Sunrise Mountain Aug. 25. That gives them little time to rest for their first power-points game.

We're gambling, but the educational experience behind it is well worth the gamble,” Moore said.

For information on donating, email Moore at kmoore@buhsd.org.


Casey Pritchard can be reached at caseypritchard@westvalleyview.com
or on Twitter @CaseyonSports.

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