One of the most spectacular plays in the storied history of Lahainaluna High School football covered but five yards and a cloud of dust at the Olowalu end of the Luna home field, the Imu, on the historic West Maui campus.
It was a simple, off-tackle dive play over the left side of the Lunas’ line, but the ball carrier, number 33 on the Lahainaluna roster for the 2005 season, was met at the line of scrimmage by a defender nearly twice his size and appeared to be stopped there. The diminutive, 145-pound fullback kept his leg drive going, plowed through that tackle but was immediately engulfed by two linebackers. Again, it looked like he was going down, but he spun out of their grasp and the powerful legs kept churning to the goal line. A head-on collision with a defensive back resulted in a short stalemate, but 33 kept on truckin’ and dove into the end zone for the touchdown.
This kind of determined, go-for-broke effort characterizes Lahainaluna football, and the home crowd at the Imu erupted in a roar of appreciation as number 33 tossed the pigskin to the referee and trotted off the field. No jumping around, no theatrics for the team in the red uniforms — just taking care of business, building character.
When the football season ended that fall, number 33, senior Bailey Ball, was named to the first team of the Maui Interscholastic League All-Star roster at running back, but he wasn’t paying much attention to that. He had important business to attend to in the hallowed halls of the Lahainaluna wrestling room.
As a freshman, he won the 112-pound MIL title, but during his sophomore year he suffered a horrific elbow injury that canceled any hopes of a return to the podium that season. But as depicted above, Bailey Ball is no ordinary young man. At 5’7” and 145 pounds on a good day, his physical stature is average but inside of his chest beats the heart of a lion.
He went through the tortuous rehab that injured athletes endure and returned to the mat to take MIL gold at 125 in his junior year. He finished fourth at the state tournament that season but returned in his senior year to culminate his wrestling career with a state championship at 140 pounds.
For most high school graduates, that would be a satisfying career. But this is no ordinary young man, and Ball, an honor student with a cumulative 3.75 grade point average in an advanced placement course of study, had his sights set — literally and figuratively — on the sky.
He applied and petitioned to attend the United States Air Force Academy and was admitted following his high school graduation. Ball endured the rigorous four years of military officers’ training and discipline in his lifelong quest to become an Air Force pilot.
Along the way, he took up boxing and once again displayed the competitive spirit developed at Lahainaluna in his youth years.
Last month, Ball represented the USAF as he won the 139-pound title of the Western Regional Championships of the National Collegiate Boxing Association. This victory advanced him to the NCBA Championships, where he lost in the semifinals by decision, but nonetheless was honored as a 2010 All-American.
Bailey graduates from the Air Force Academy next month, and the sky remains the limit for him. He will move on to Pensacola, Florida, to begin his ten years of advanced training to become a pilot.
The Lahaina community joins his parents, Glorine Loper and Kim Ball, in sending sincere congratulations to young Bailey Ball on his commitment and dedication in promoting a positive contribution to humanity.
Way to go, Bails! Now go fly on with God. (By Walter Chihara)
Bailey Ball and his dad, Kim, are elated after Bailey was named “Outstanding Boxer” at the 31st Wing Open at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.