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Valley / Ventura County Sports

Hueneme High Has Its Own Culture Club

October 23, 1998|TRIS WYKES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

There's no skirting the issue. At Hueneme High football games, Polynesian pride is in plain view.

During pregame warmups, six Vikings wear traditional Polynesian skirts, known as lavalavas, around their waists. Five are cousins, and they've involved teammate George Tapia, who is Latino, in the ritual.

The group, which includes Henry Otineru, Tiloi Tuitama Jr., Tyrone Tutogi, Nate Scanlan and Taauili Pollard, started wearing the lavalavas as freshmen. Tuitama said the players wear them to show pride in their heritage and to reach out to Polynesian spectators, many of whom approach the players, particularly after away games.

"Polynesians come up and ask us who our parents are; I've found a few second cousins that way," Tuitama said.

Tiloi Tuitama Sr., Hueneme's defensive line coach, is a 1968 Hueneme graduate. He and his five brothers played football and wore lavalavas during warmups.

"It's something that's been handed down, and the kids wanted to stay close to it," he said.

Tuitama Jr. said opponents often ask about the colorful skirts and the Polynesian war chant in which Otineru leads the team moments before kickoff.

"The whole thing gets me pumped up," Tuitama Jr. said. "I feel part of something. I feel unique."

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