A man gently strummed a ukulele and sang "Aloha, Hawaii." Another read a telegram of encouragement from movie director Steven Spielberg.
The visiting team draped leis around the necks of their shoulder-padded hosts. All who stepped before the microphone offered heartfelt thank-yous.
Benevolence flowed freely before the start of Saturday's Hurricane Iniki Friendship Charity Bowl game between Waimea High of Kauai and host Westlake at Thousand Oaks High.
Maybe a little too much spilled onto the field.
Both teams coasted through a lackluster first half. But the hitting intensified after intermission to provide for an entertaining football game.
Only when Waimea kicker James Kiger's 40-yard field goal sailed wide of the left upright as time expired did Westlake escape with a 16-15 win before about 3,000.
Westlake (4-7), representing the Marmonte League in a game in which proceeds will benefit hurricane-recovery efforts on Kauai, needed a fourth-quarter touchdown and two-point conversion to finish off its fired-up foe.
Waimea (4-3), champion of the three-team Kauai Interscholastic Federation, appeared to be in for a long day as the Warriors moved the ball impressively on their opening possession to take an 8-0 lead. Senior tailback Matt McGinnis, who led Westlake with 100 yards in 18 carries, bolted 17 yards for a touchdown to cap a four-play, 60-yard drive.
But after its defense tightened, Waimea pulled even on a 48-yard, second-quarter pass from quarterback Aaron Chun to Alex Abreu. Chun tossed a two-point conversion pass to Joseph Tabonair to send the teams to the locker room tied, 8-8.
"We're small, so we gotta be intense," Waimea Coach Pat Periera said.
The game became heated almost immediately in the final minute of the first half after two Westlake players had the wind knocked out of them on the same series. After one tackle, a fired-up Waimea defender leaped to his feet and roared "Hawaiian style!"
"It was a situation where one of their kids made a comment that we didn't think was appropriate," Westlake Coach Jim Benkert said. "So we talked at halftime of playing California-style football and started hitting people."
Waimea came out hitting in the second half, stopping Westlake on fourth down at the Waimea 37. Waimea followed by driving 63 yards in 11 plays to take a 15-8 lead on a six-yard pass from Chun to Tyler Tanigawa.
Westlake countered with a 55-yard game-winning drive that culminated with a five-yard run by quarterback Brian Field on the second play of the fourth quarter. Kevin Crook tossed a conversion pass to Billy Miller for the game-winning score.
Waimea got a break with 1 minute 12 seconds left when a high snap sailed over the head of Westlake punter Scott Morris and Waimea recovered at the Westlake 42. Seven plays later, Waimea hurried to line up for a field-goal attempt as the final seconds ticked away. Kiger's kick into a strong wind had the distance but not the accuracy.
"We won our championship, and anything after that is gravy," Periera said. "This trip really restored our faith in our fellow human beings. A bunch of people in California got together and showed us warmth and caring. I just hope some day we can pay them back."