“James, see my niece over there,” I saw my friend Romeo’s niece lighting fireworks on the street, standing a little over four feet and weighing less than one of my legs, “She wants to play football.”

“Really,” I replied in disbelief. “What does she want to do, be a kicker?”

“No, she wants to be the quarterback.”

“I got a ball in the car, let’s see her throw.” 

“Alyssa, come here,” Romeo bellowed. She skipped over to us. “You want to throw ball?”

“Yeah, yeah,” she answered like an eager puppy. She didn’t look big enough to grip a softball, let alone a full-sized football. Romeo lofted her the ball which she caught with ease. What came next was a perfect spiral dropping right into Romeo’s hand from 30-plus feet away. 

In years past, this pint-sized future Joe Montana could only look forward to being a practice player with the boys in high school football. Very rarely can a female athlete compete with the males in Varsity athletics (kudos to former Kailua High School baseball player Brandy Choy-Foo). Now Alyssa has something to look forward to – playing football for the Hawaii Legends.

No the Hawaii Legends is not the new Arena Football Team, but Hawaii’s only Women’s Football Team. They play against teams from the mainland in the Women’s American Football League. The Legends team is owned by Nancy McMahon, who also participates in the games as a DL (wearing #00).  This season they posted a six win-four loss season, ending with a 57-29 trouncing of the San Diego Sunfire team that had beaten them 21-10 earlier in the season. Unfortunately, it was their last game of the regular season (they still have a chance to make the playoffs), but hopefully you’ll get a taste of Legend’s football, and come out and support the team next season.

What kind of women come out to play football? The answer is - all kinds. Yes, there’s a good chance the children you saw in the stands were cheering for their mothers. Trying to beat that photoradar speeding ticket you got? Maybe you should see #33, Dawnie Ichimura, she’s a lawyer. Maybe you were in need of some TLC in the Intensive Care Unit at Queens Hospital. Did you know that those healing hands could have been the sure hands of running back Maryann Reed (pictured at bottom)? Do you think the opposing teams nose tackle wants to hear about that mating rituals of the Hawaiian Monk Seal? She just needs to look across the line, and ask starting center and University of Hawaii Marine Biology Major, AnnMarie Dehn (also pictured below), for the answer. They come from all walks of life, and they come to play.

The game started with former Pure Heart lead singer Jon Yamasato singing the National Anthem. The legends kicked off to the Sunfire, and the defense held strong on the first series. On the ensuing punt, #11 Hilary Okumoto swept around the left side, and followed her wall of blockers all the way to the end-zone for a 70 yard touchdown. After giving up a touchdown to the Sunfire, Hilary Okumoto responded by taking a 30 yard swing pass from quarterback Raechelle Fabrao to the house for her second touchdown. Okumoto was also responsible for both extra points and had an astonishing run of scoring points every time she touched the ball. As I was digesting this mind-boggling stat, Hilary had a yet another 70 yard touchdown reception... but it was called back on a facemask penalty. If they had a Heismann for women, I’d have to vote for Hilary.

As play went on, I was watched head coach Ben Moore chastise his players at times with very unlady-like language. Maybe I was expecting tea and cookies, but what I got was a can of whup-ass.  Equally impressive were some of the hits on the field. You could hear the big Larry Price “katooge” all the way in the stands on a few plays. Our resident Marine Biologist AnnMarie Dehn was unfortunately sidelined after a particularly bone crunching pileup.  At times you could see the inexperience on the field, as blocks were missed, and numerous facemask penalties slowed the game. Then again, there were times when the blocks were so good, and the passes were so crisp, you forgot you were watching women play.

The first-half score resembled one of the UH Warrior scores, as the Legends passed their way to five touchdowns and a 37-29 lead. It was not without controversy though. The San Diego Sunfire scored their last touchdown and two-point conversion with no time left on the clock. No, they didn’t score as time ran out, the ball was snapped after time ran out. Everybody in the stands knew time ran out, everybody on the field knew time ran out. The only ones who didn’t know were the officials, who let the play stand. 

Believe it or not, no points were scored in the third quarter at all. I guess the defensive coordinators figured each other out and made the right adjustments at the half. To our chagrin, the offenses weren’t the only ones shut out during the third quarter.  The concession stand ran out of hot-dogs, spam musubis, and chili bowls at the half, leaving a few tummies rumbling. 

The fourth quarter saw the Legends increase the lead to 51-29 as time was ticking off the clock. The Legends had the ball with seconds left, and had run the ball near the goal line. It’s the last game of the season, so do you take a knee, or go for it? In a move that was either a reward for all their hard work, or a page out of Steve Spurrier’s book of chicken-sh** calls, the Legends called for a tackle-eligible pass play. #50 Noeau Daugher cradled the touchdown pass into her lineman’s gloves and the people in the stand went nuts. What a game!

At the end of the game the teams shook hands and shared laughs. The Legends gave a big “mahalo” to the fans, and then made their way into the stands to their friends and family. Many of the players and coaches who found out we were taking pictures and writing an article thanked us for supporting them. We found out that football is an expensive sport, and living in Hawaii makes it even more expensive. Although the Legends have sponsors and hold fund-raisers, players have to put out hundreds of dollars out of their pockets to play a game on the mainland. When you think of Randy Moss dogging it on the field for millions, then see these women paying to play their hearts out, it makes you a little sick..

It may be a long wait until next year, but I’ll be there to support the Legends. Their brand of football is exciting, and not tainted with prima-donnas. It’s a kind of football you’d want your kids to see. If you have a daughter who likes football, there is nothing better you can do than come out and catch a game or three. If you do come out, maybe you’ll catch a sight like I did at the end of the game – Alyssa posed with her Uncle Romeo, Aunty Malisa, Sister Justine, and player Maryann Reed for a picture. Alyssa is standing there, holding Maryann’s helmet, with a big grin on her face, and thoughts of being the next Legend’s quarterback in her head.

From left to right: Uncle Romeo, Maryann Reed (#3), Alyssa, Justine, and Aunty Malisa

If you want to learn more about the Hawaii Legends, visit www.hawaiilegends.net.  Or, for sponsorship information, please contact Nancy McMahon at 742-7033 or email her at staff@hawaiilegends.net.  The Hawaii Legends thank all of their fans... past, present and future.