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KS Maui sophomore Zede Campbell runs the ball during the Warriors’ victory over Nā Ali‘i on Friday (Sept. 15) at King Kekaulike. Campbell is one of four players from West Maui on the varsity football team.

KS Maui football players represent more than their school on the field

Sept. 25, 2023

Kamehameha Schools Maui haumāna Zede Campbell, Kaonohi Casco, Pa‘ani Yap and Shane Ueki are playing for more than just their school this football season.

Born and raised in West Maui, the four football players said they are representing their families and their hometown, following last month’s wildfires.

“I love representing my school, but at the same time I’m representing so much more,” said Casco, whose family has played football for generations at Lahainaluna High School. “No Casco kid has come up here and played football. I’m battling for Lahaina and my last name.”

Entering this season, the Warriors football team was looking to rebound after losing to King Kekaulike in the Maui Interscholastic League Division II championship playoff game last year. The four athletes were focused on their training and practices until schools were shut down island-wide by the disaster.

KS Maui junior Kaonohi Casco catches a pass during the Warriors’ victory over Nā Ali‘i on Friday (Sept. 15) at King Kekaulike.

“I was coming out to the practices and workouts, but when the fires happened that all changed,” Ueki said. “I think I was one of the last students to return to school because our family was helping friends to repair their roof and getting them food.”

Ueki, a senior wide receiver/defensive back, said he and his family volunteered their time at donation and food distribution centers such as Lahaina Gateway and Nāpili Park.

“We were making fresh food for the people out there,” he said. “My whole mind was off of football.”

Yap, a senior and defensive back, also said it was difficult to think about football after the wildfires hit his hometown.

“My initial thought was that football is not even on my mind anymore,” he said. “I just wanted to focus on my community and make sure everyone around me was ok.”

KS Maui senior Pa‘ani Yap (18) celebrates a defensive play during the Warriors’ victory over Nā Ali‘i on Friday (Sept. 15) at King Kekaulike.

While the two seniors found comfort in their West Maui community, Campbell and Casco found comfort in returning to football.

Campbell, a sophomore running back, said his Lahaina home was unaffected by the fires, but many of his neighbors as well as friends and family lost everything.

“All your childhood memories are over there and places you’d hang out with your friends and go cruise are just gone,” he said. “It’s really sad to see driving through all of that.

“Football actually helped out with everything. It helped take my mind off things. Football has been a stress reliever. I just go out and play, have fun and get to have your friends comfort you.”

Casco said many of his friends and family members also lost their homes. He said football has provided a place where he can temporarily escape his worries, though, it “floods back in” every time he returns home.

“It’s still hard to believe for me,” he said. “When I’m staying up here and playing football, I still feel like Lahaina is there and when I actually go there it’s not. I don’t think I’ve fully accepted that it’s gone and I don’t know if I ever will, honestly.”

All of the KS Maui players appeared to have refocused on football as the Warriors are undefeated (4–0) after defeating crosstown rivals King Kekaulike 34-21 on Friday, Sept. 15 and earned a 24-0 shutout on Friday, Sept. 22 against Baldwin.The West Maui haumāna continue to play key roles during this win streak.

Casco said the West Maui players share a close bond, which included Yap stepping in to play safety after he suffered an ankle sprain midway through the game against King Kekaulike.

“In some ways I trust him completely,” Casco said of Yap. “Those are my best friends and brothers. I wouldn’t be me if it wasn’t for them.”

As the team looks to retain its perfect record, one game that is circled on their calendar is the matchup against Lahainaluna on Saturday, Oct. 14, at War Memorial Stadium. The four athletes said they keep in touch and play club football with many of the Lahainaluna players.

KS Maui senior Shane Ueki lines up on defense during the Warriors’ victory over Nā Ali‘i on Friday (Sept. 15) at King Kekaulike.

“I know they wouldn’t want us to go easy on them because of this disaster,” Ueki said. “We’re definitely going to try and put up a good game against them.”

Yap said he’s looking forward to the game with his teammates, but encouraged all of his West Maui classmates to be proud of their hometown and roots even while attending school Upcountry.

“For me, I know many Lahaina kids that come up here think that Lahaina forgets about them,” he said. “But I was told by one of my coaches, even though you’re out of Lahaina, they can’t take the Lahaina out of you.”

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