Ninth Island Warriors

In college football on September 18, 2009 at 10:56 pm

September 19th, 2003, had been circled on my calendar for months. It was the day that the Hawaii Warrior football team would play the UNLV Rebels at Sam Boyd Stadium. I remember calling the UNLV ticket office a month before the game to purchase tickets, specifically asking for seats in the Hawaii section. The man on the phone nonchalantly said, “I’ll take care of it.” The tickets were bought, the hotel was booked (sort of, but that’s another story), and the date was here. I packed up my family and made the four hour drive from Flagstaff, AZ to Las Vegas, NV.

With my wife and younger children off to visit an old college friend, I took my six year old son to experience his first steps toward manhood (he only lasted 3 quarters). When my son and I entered the stadium on game night to take our seats, we quickly discovered that almost half the stadium was the Hawaii section. We hadn’t seen so many locals in one place since leaving Hawaii a year earlier. We were in a sea of green and black and could hear “da Pigeon English” being spoken all around us. It was then that I understood the term “ninth island.”

The game itself was fun with the most entertaining play being the two-point conversion run in by holder Jason Whieldon, following a blocked extra point that landed back in his hands. But ultimately, the Warriors lost to UNLV, 33–22.

Four years later, in 2007, we again made the drive across the Hoover Dam to see the Colt-Brennan-led-Warriors overwhelm the hometown Rebels, 49–14. During the game, I had no idea that Brennan had sprained his ankle during pre-game warm-ups. He played extremely well for being injured. It was also the game that defensive back, Ryan Mouton introduced himself to the Hawaii faithful, with an electrifying interception return for a touchdown. The spectators around me kept asking, “Who was that?” The answer coming after a brief glance at the game program, “Mouton, Mouton.”

My family and I would have definitely been in Vegas again for tomorrow night’s game if we were still living in Arizona. Instead, pay-per-view will have to do. It should be a hard fought game. UNLV with their handful of Hawaiian/Polynesian players are pumped, and the big Hawaii crowd will definitely motivate the Warriors. For those of you who will be in the stadium, have fun, cheer loud . . . and don’t fight!

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