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|| News Item: Posted 2002-10-01

ALOHA! Prep Football, Hawaiian Style
By Bob Larson, Contra Costa Times

Photo by Neil Hayes/Contra Costa Times

Photo by Neil Hayes/Contra Costa Times

Bob Larson at Aloha Stadium in Hawaii.
"HEY BARTENDER, another Mai Tai over here!"

As I wait for another Mai Tai, I read the description of what goes into a Mai Tai on a list of drinks that sits on my table at the pool-side bar at the Sheraton Princess on the strip of Waikiki Beach in Hawaii. 1/2 tsp. powered sugar, 2 oz. rum, 1 oz. triple sec, 1 tbsp. orgeat or almond flavored syrup, 1 tbsp. grenadine, 1 tbsp. lime juice. Shake with ice and strain into glass with crushed ice. Decorate with wedge of pineapple. To kick it up a notch, put a dash of 151-proof rum. Drink with straw. Forget the straw.

What the hell am I doing here? It all started when my boss, Alan Greth asked me if I wanted to go to Hawaii to cover the undefeated De La Salle Spartan football team in the First Hawaiian Bank Football Classic. "Sure", the first thing that pops in my mind, "where's my sun screen and my swimming suit."

In case you have been locked in a gym locker for the past decade, De La Salle high school in Concord California is 126-0. They haven't lost a game since 1991. They have been kicking the shit out of teams every year since then and are on there way to Hawaii to play the St. Louis Crusaders at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii Saturday, September 21, 2002.

Here is a little history of the team, their head coach is Bob Ladouceur, the Bill Walsh of high school football. Even Walsh can't beat this record. National record 126-game winning streak with 10 undefeated seasons; defending national champion and current consensus number one in the country; four national titles in the past eight seasons. They are a fucking machine!

Wednesday September 18th

Photo by Bob Larson/Contra Costa Times

Photo by Bob Larson/Contra Costa Times

Cheerleaders from Saint Francis High greet the De La Salle team at the aiport upon their arrival in Hawaii.
I arrived with the team the Wednesday before the game and the team was greeted by some local cheerleaders from St. Francis Hawaii. They greeted the team and handed out leis to the players and coaches. "Classy." The team was bussed to the Sheraton, Waikiki beach and for me this is where the fun started. I've got my sun screen and swimming suit.

I check out my room on the 16th floor. There's a fridge, perfect. Mad dash to the ABC store across the street. Beer run, Fosters was on sale for $5.99 a six pack (that's a deal in Hawaii). If you haven't been to the island before, it's expensive. I got my beer, some water for later and some nuts to munch on. I'm ready. Where's the beach?

Walking through the lobby I get stopped by coach Mike. "Hey Bob, are you going to practice? We leave in 15 minutes."

Shit, no time for the beach. I grab my gear and head to practice at Aloha Stadium. I'm sitting on the bus thinking, we just got here after a 4.5 -hour flight and the first thing they do is practice. Let's hit the beach and then go to practice. It's mid afternoon and we hit the field. It's that plastic stuff. It's hot and humid. I could feel the heat through my shoes. Now I know how the baseball St. Louis Cardinals felt playing on turf in the middle of a St. Louis summer

While shooting practice I met this local photographer who worked for the Honolulu Advertiser, Greg Yamamoto. Great guy. He gave me a ride back to the hotel so I didn't have to shoot the whole practice. I had to get back and send a couple of photos.

On the way back to the hotel, Greg gave me some pointers on the stadium, how to get up to the press box, what the light was, 500- 2.8 at 800 ISO. He showed me where St. Louis high school was and their practice field.

"Hey Greg, enough about that stuff, where's a good place to have a cocktail on the beach. Are there any cigar stores near the Sheraton?" I ask.

"Go to "The Cove" and have a drink. There's a bar on the beach- it's across from your hotel. You will have to ask Eric Risberg where the best cigar stores are. I don't know," says Greg as he laughs.
The Count is everywhere!

Photo by Bob Larson/Contra Costa Times

Photo by Bob Larson/Contra Costa Times

De La Salle high school football players walk through the lobby of the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani on their way to the bus and then to Aloha Stadium for practice.
Greg drops me off and he's off to his next assignment. And I'm off to mine, the beach. No, I can't, I have to send pictures. There's a three-hour time difference between Hawaii and the Bay Area and it's getting late. I sent a couple of photos of the team arriving. No problems sending-cake. It's time for the beach. I open my first beer and put on my suit. Work's over for the day. I'm ready.

The team is back and I'm heading out when I see coach Joe, going to the luau with the team. Sure, again no beach time. The team meets for dinner on the beach with Polynesian and fire dancers. It was great. Some of the players and coaches were pulled on stage to dance with the locals. It made for some fun pictures.

After the luau, the team headed back to their rooms and bed check at 10:15pm. I'm free. I head up to my room for a beer and a cigar. I was on the 16th floor over looking parts of Waikiki beach and other hotels. I hook up with Times columnist Neil Hayes. He's been to the ABC store and found the Fosters on sale. We hold court on my deck and drink beers and smoke cigars. You can solve some of the world's biggest problems with a couple of six packs.

Thursday September 19

Up early for breakfast, I go across the street to The Cove. Nice place, buffet - $10.95, all you can eat. And it's right on the beach. I pick up the local paper, The Honolulu Advertiser. I'm reading all the local hype on the game, they're expecting 40 thousand for the game.

Well, it's two games, Long Beach Poly vs. Kahuku Red Raiders and De La Salle vs. St. Louis Crusaders. I had to put the paper down. Oh shit, I had ink all over my hands, just reading the sports page. That's the last time I touched that paper.

I then headed to a morning breakfast for the team. They had a conference room on the 11th floor overlooking Waikiki beach. That's where they held all their meetings and most of their meals. It was first class.

The team had a couple of hours to walk around and shop, but NO WATER and stay out of the sun. They had practice at the University of Hawaii later that day.

No beach for me again, I didn't even put on my suit. I made some photos of some of the kids walking along Waikiki beach and some of them shopping. I headed back to send the photos. Two beach shots and a couple from last night's luau.

Photo by Bob Larson/Contra Costa Times

Photo by Bob Larson/Contra Costa Times

De La Salle head coach Bob Ladouceur with his Football Classic t-shirt watches his team during special teams practice at Aloha Stadium on Friday, September 20.
Off to practice at U of H. The team boarded their first class bus and headed to the practice field at U of H. Made some photos and headed over to St. Louis to check out their practice and shoot a picture of their athletic director for an upcoming story.

I was told I couldn't shoot the practice. I never could understand that. What can a still camera give away? Fuck that, I went up the hill and hung out with some of the parents that watch practice and shot overhead. By the time I got back it was dinnertime and then the beach for sure.

I ran into Bob Ladouceur in the lobby. "Going to the meeting tonight?" coach asks me.

I'm thinking to myself, "Shit no beach again. Sure Bob, I'm there."

This is their classic Thursday night meeting. This is where it all comes out. Emotions run wild and the kids and coaches go over their goals for the game. I make pictures and head back to my room. It's Neil again, court on the deck, beers and cigars. We talk high school football and discuss the success of De La Salle.

Friday September 20

I'm up and running early with Neil. The team is going to Pearl Harbor and taking a tour of the USS Missouri. We miss the bus, they left early. We drive and get lost. We finally find it and hook up with the team. Made pictures of the team touring the Missouri and then it's off to practice at Aloha Stadium.

Lunch at the stadium first. More pictures at the stadium and we head out for the hotel.

Their practices started at 3pm every day and that's 6pm on the West Coast. Time was always working against me. By the time we got back, it was time to send photos of Pearl and the practice.
Day over around dinnertime. Swim suit and sunscreen on, beer in hand. I meet some of the parents in the lobby. "How bout a drink Bob?"
"OK, just one, I've got to get to the beach," I say. Mai Tai's.

Coach Terry walks up. "Coming to the meeting tonight Bob?" coach asks me.

"Shit. Sure coach," Guess what? No beach. I shoot the dinner and stay for the meeting. Coach Terry and Bob both delivered speeches, when it was over I wanted to go out and hit someone. Meantime, as the meeting is going on, it's Friday night in Waikiki beach. They close down the street and the Mai Tais and beers are flowing, bands playing, people everywhere. And the team is on the 11th floor preparing for war on Saturday. And I'm with them. I'm fired up.

Photo by Bob Larson/Contra Costa Times

Photo by Bob Larson/Contra Costa Times

De La Salle football players from left to right are, Cameron Colvin, De'Montae Fitzgerald and Britt Cecil check out Waikiki beach Thursday September 19,2002. The kids were told to stay out of the water to save their energy for pratice later in the day and
Meeting over, the kids head back to their rooms. So do I, it's late and the street party is over. All that remains are the hookers that roam the streets. Neil and I hold court on the 16th floor deck, Fosters and cigars.

Saturday September 20

Game day. I've been to every meeting and practice. Let's get it on. On game day the coaches back off, everything has been said, the kids know what to do. They are told to stay in their rooms and rest. Watch TV, listen to music, read. Stay out of the sun and the water. They do. These kids do what they're told. They know what's at stake. A 126 - game winning streak.

Even though they don't talk about it, they know. Not one of those kids wants to be on the team that breaks the streak.

For the first time since I've been here, I have nothing to do. I don't even say it. I sneak out the back, no one sees me. I've got my shades on and my 49er hat covers my face. BEELINE to the beach. I'm in the water at last. It's like bath water. Neil joins me.

This is paradise.

We join the team for a late afternoon dinner, then get ready for the game. I make sure all my shitty D-1 batteries are charged to the max. Neil sharpens his pencil. I love columnists.

We head to the game, parking pass and credential in hand. It's tailgate city, the parking lot is packed. We get there for the start of the Poly game 5pm local, I need to shoot some of this game for file.

De La Salle plays Poly in three weeks at the University of California at Berkeley. A 2pm start. Poly ripped Kahuku a new asshole, 42-2.
Kickoff time for the De La Salle game was 8:37pm, that's 11:37pm on the West Coast. I was shooting that night for our web-site and the day after we would run some photos with a gamer and Neil's column. Better late than never. I got to shoot the whole game, but Alan informed me to move a couple of photos of their pre-game warm-up for the web. I wanted to move some photos at the half, but our phone line was in the press box. About a 15 - minute walk. I shot the whole game and then sent my photos.

Photo by Bob Larson/Contra Costa Times

Photo by Bob Larson/Contra Costa Times

De La Salle RB Maurice Drew does "Hang Loose", Hawaii after scoring on a 16 yard run in the 2nd quarter of their game with St Louis Hawaii Saturday September 21,2002.
There was a great crowd on hand, 30 thousand for a high school game. The crowd was buzzing. I know the kids were fired up for this one, you could see it in their eyes. Well, De La Salle beat up on the St. Louis Crusaders 31-21. And the Crusaders didn't even stick around for the press conference after the game.

Game over and on the bus, gone. It pissed off all the writers. O'well. The Spartans are 127-0. By the time I got back to the hotel it was after 2am. I did another edit and sent some more photos while sucking down a couple of Fosters and smoking my last cigar. I heard the next day that the team and some of the coaches hit the beach after the game around midnight, they threw the coaches in the water to celebrate. I missed the beach again.


(Bob Larson is a staff photographer at the Contra Costa Times in Walnut Creek, CA. Larson has been covering De La Salle football for the last decade. Larson will be a featured speaker talking about covering prep sports at the second annual Sports Shooter Workshop & Luau and November 1 & 2, 2002 in Manhattan Beach, CA.)

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