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AYFS celebrates 10th anniversary to kick-off the 2019 football season

Huge smiles on the faces of the AYFS Rams Tafuna High School’s JROTC Color GuardGuest speaker Keikiokalani Misipeka of Missouri Southern State UniversityThe AYFS cheerleading squad Francisco MauigoaWarner Tumanu, Sene Isileli, and Francisco MauigoaStadium director Tole’afoa Henry Tavake cutting the cakeStadium director Tole’afoa Henry Tavake throwing the first pass

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The American Youth Football of Samoa (AYFS) officially kicked off its 10th annual football season last Saturday morning at Veterans Memorial Stadium with a special anniversary ceremony held before kick-off – commemorating a decade of youth football action that started from humble beginnings, preparing players not only for secondary level play, but also collegiate and the National Football League (NFL).

Tafuna High School’s JROTC Color Guard was on the field to present colors to officially open the ceremony as the anthems of both the US and American Samoa were sung by Angie Afo.

Special remarks were provided by Stadium director Tole’afoa Henry Tavake, representing ASG in their support of the AYFS program. “Our part as the government is to support and to do whatever we can do to help out with the program – this is where it all begins,” he said.

“On behalf of the our Honorable Governor Lolo Moliga and the government, we appreciate the league and what you do for the youth of American Samoa, all your volunteers, coaches, parents, and supporters who are helping to mold these boys into becoming young men - thank you all so much.”

Guest speaker was former AYFS Chargers coach, Keikiokalani Misipeka, who is now coaching at Missouri Southern State University. He encouraged the kids to shift their vision into becoming the best players in the world. “Some of you have to understand the sacrifices that these coaches are making into shaping you boys into becoming young men – it’s not about football, it’s about changing boys into young men.”

Misipeka added “Your mentality shouldn’t be wanting to be the best player for the Steelers, the Bears, the Rams, the 49ers — ‘I want to be the best player in American Samoa, that should never be your mentality’ — instead your focus should be to become the best athlete in the world. Prepare yourselves, because when you guys come to the US, there’s a different animal out there.”

To the parents, Misipeka said, "Love your children, but don’t spoil them too much. Because when you come to the US… I’ve seen a lot of kids from Samoa when they come, it’s a culture shock for them, it’s the fast life you're not ready for it – Be hard on your kids, tough love. Spoil them, but don’t spoil them too much because when they reach the real world, they’re not prepared.”

He concluded, "Prepare yourselves, because when you get to the US there’s a whole lot of competition out there. I want you guys to understand that 500  student athletes from American Samoa versus the 500,000 student athletes out there in the US, that’s the real battle.”

AYFS President Victor Avalos noted that the  “AYFS is not just about teaching football, but it’s about teaching you the fundamentals of life, by pushing you in your academics and your education all the while in a drug free environment.”

“Parents, the AYFS is here for your kids, but we can’t do it without you, help them with their education to get that scholarship and go to college and seize opportunities, I can promise you that not everyone here is going to make the NFL – But use football to get your education and come back and become great ambassadors for American Samoa. Come back and become a great governor, come back and become a great engineer, come back and become a good lawyer, a good doctor, whatever you choose to be in life, but use football to get your education,” Avalos said.

AYFS was founded by a group of concerned parents to address the needs of the local youth by providing a youth football program back in 2009 under former AYFS president Shiloh Pritchard. The program started with only 4 teams at the Kanana Fou field, and has expanded to over 1,400 participants today.

Over the years, AYFS has built community support to assist with taking a team off-island to get a feel for off-island competition. In 2012, AYFS had its first team travel to Hawai’i and played in games at the Aloha Stadium; and in 2016 the AYFS All-Star team ‘Matais’ represented American Samoa in San Diego, California — and has done so for the past three years.

According to Avalos, “This past year, in June 2018, AYFS was able to shift international waters, as the Matai’s were able to participate in a friendly game with our brothers from Apia, Samoa with the Samoa Gridiron.

“What a treat for our boys to share the sport of American football with the group. We look forward to what the future has in store for AYFS and their alumni. AYFS stands by its motto – All for the kids!”

The first AYFS alumnus who is currently active in the NFL is former AYFS Steeler, Frankie Luvu who is playing for the New York Jets.

Kicking off last Saturday’s triple header was the match up between the AYFS Bears and the AYFS Panthers where the Bears came out victorious,16-13.

The second game saw the AYFS Rams dominating the AYFS Packers in a 40-14 victory.

And closing off the day was a huge victory for the AYFS 49ers who defeated the AYFS Steelers 41-6.