Teva Loft, a high school football player in the Hawaii town that was destroyed by the deadliest U.S. wildfire in over a century, has never been to Las Vegas nor has he watched an NFL game in person.
But he and three of his fellow Lahainaluna High School captains will be at Super Bowl LVIII this weekend as guests of the NFL, The Maui News reported. Three coaches will be joining them in serving as honorary coin toss captains before the game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers.
A little more than two months after the Aug. 8 fire, tickets for the homecoming game sold out in minutes, an indication of how badly Lahaina residents needed a glimmer of hope amid a tragedy that claimed at least 100 lives.
Similar to high school football in other American small towns, Lahainaluna's powerhouse program is a source of pride.
Perched on a hillside, the school gets its name from its location overlooking historic Lahaina: "Luna" means "above" in Hawaiian.
Loft, Morgan "Bula" Montgomery, Kaulana Tihada and Kuola Watson were called to the principal’s office last month. The seniors thought they were in trouble.
They found themselves on a Zoom call with Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Marcus Mariota, who is from Hawaii. He told the teens that they would be going to the Super Bowl.
"It's going to be crazy, I don't have the words to describe it," Loft said. He's been living with his father after his mother's house burned down in the fire.
"The Lahainaluna High School football team embodies the power of football to bring people together, eve in the most challenging of circumstances," NFL Senior Vice President of Social Responsibility Anna Isaacson said in a news release. "We are honored to have members of the Lahainaluna football team join us as coin toss captains at Super Bowl LVIII to recognize their incredible efforts in rebuilding their community."
Morgan "Bula" Montgomery and his family have been living in a hotel since the fire destroyed their apartment building. The day of the Zoom call, Montgomery's mom also got some good news: The Federal Emergency Management Agency found the family a long-term house to live in.
"There's light at the end of the tunnel," Tamara Montgomery said.
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