Island influence, war dance revs up Texas football team

Thu Sep 1, 2011 12:12pm EDT
 
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By Karen Brooks

EULESS, Texas (Reuters) - Defensive lineman Moahengi Latu strikes an imposing figure, long hair swinging wildly as he belts out a battle cry.

"Get ready for war, let's go!" Latu screams in his native Tongan language, as his teammates on the Trinity High School Trojans football team stamp their feet, raise their fists, stick out their tongues in a gesture of intimidation.

"Battle with all your might! Believe in each other! Fight on, warriors!" they cry out in Tongan. "Tau aki ho loto!"

They finish the ancient, rhythmic "haka" with a roar, just moments before their first game of the celebrated Texas high school football season.

It would be graceful, a thing of beauty, a little playful even, if it were not so savage.

In the packed stands at the district's stadium near the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, the crowd is riveted as they watch the unveiling of this season's haka -- a centuries-old tribal war dance these young Texas suburbanites have made their own.

"I get tears in my eyes, I love the haka so much," 17-year-old cheerleader co-captain Whitney Smith said. "It makes everybody in the crowd excited."

In Texas, high school football players are heroes, and the gridiron on Friday night is as much a backdrop to life as is church on Sunday morning.   Continued...

 
<p>Moments after beating rival Lee High School 30-7, the Trinity Trojans football team drop their helmets and perform their "haka" war dance one more time for the crowd, August 26, 2011. In front are players Bryan Munoz Paul Tuipulotu. REUTERS/Charlie L. Harper III</p>