After a third consecutive undefeated season, the Leeward Steelers Mitey Mite Pop Warner football team is Super Bowl bound.
The team of 22 youngsters will travel to Kissimmee, Fla. from Dec. 7-14 to play two games at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
“The kids deserve this,” head coach Wyatt Nahale said. “They come out here every week, work hard and dedicate themselves to this program. The kids being awarded this opportunity for all their hard work is really a blessing.”
Nahale credited the parents and supporters of the program, who made the once in a lifetime trip a reality by raising just over $50,000 in a short period of time.
Freshly outfitted in new black and yellow uniforms, the excitement was evident on the faces of the young Steelers’ players, who have just one practice left before heading out to the Sunshine State.
“I’m very excited,” two-way lineman Anthony Torres said. “Our team is focused on getting it done and beating them.”
Fellow lineman Braden Ganir and middle linebacker Hezekiah Anahu echoed Torres’ feelings and said they cannot wait to get on the field in Florida, sack opponents quarterbacks and show what Hawaii football has to offer.
“I expect the highest caliber of play for this age group,” Nahale said. “We will play two games: One against a Massachusetts team and the other against one from Washington.”
The Pop Warner Super Bowl consists of 64 teams from eight Pop Warner regions playing in four age/weight classifications. The mitey-mite division is designated for players ages 7-9 who weigh between 45 and 90 pounds. The division had been excluded from the annual Pop Warner national championships until 2011.
“I love coaching kids this age because they are so innocent and still have they mindset that they want to learn,” said Nahale, a Konawaena graduate and former football player. “They don’t have any of those bad habits yet.”
The team will be the first mighty-mite program in the state to participate in the event.
“The greatest thing about this has been seeing the kids develop,” Nahale said. “Some of them didn’t even know how to tie their shoelaces when they first came out here. To see them develop into football players has been great.”
The journey has not been all about the football though. Nahale hopes that the lessons learned on the gridiron can be applied outside of a helmet and shoulder pads.
“Our program is geared to teach them the values of life as well so they can be good kids in the community. That’s our ultimate goal.”