Makana Garrigan and Sam Atoe stood there at midfield Saturday, facing the stands at Cathedral High School in Los Angeles with 59 other Pacific Islanders, all of them in a single line, in football uniform, the game just moments away, when they began the Haka.
In unison, they stomped their feet, vigorously crossed and uncrossed their arms, chanted, stuck out their tongues in an exaggerated style, opened their eyes wide. As pregame shows go, it doesn’t get any more distinctive or personal. Think of the baritone voice of James Earl Jones propelled with great vigor through a megaphone.
Makana Garrigan of Casa Grande was one of two Empire football players (with Sam Atoe of Maria Carrillo) to participate in last Saturday's Polynesian All-American Classic in Los Angeles. For Garrigan and Atoe, the experience gave them a chance to celebrate island culture and bond with the other Pacific Islanders on the field. “It was like I had known everyone for at least five years,” Garrigan said. Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat
“There was so much energy,” said Garrigan, a wide receiver/safety from Casa Grande. Now, days later, Garrigan admitted, he still gets goose bumps just from the re-telling of it.
The Haka is a posture dance, its origins from the Maori of New Zealand. It can be used as a welcoming gesture or as a ceremonial rite. Most commonly, it is displayed before a football game by Polynesians.
“To intimidate our opponents,” said Atoe, the running back/linebacker from Maria Carrillo.
This time, however, it was done not to intimidate but to celebrate a culture. This was the First Annual Polynesian All-American Classic football game, a collection of the best senior high school talent in America with Pacific Island heritage. And it was quite a collection, 61 players from nine states. At least 23 of them have verbally committed to Division I NCAA universities.