Dance ritual gets BG pumped up for game

Hawaiian native Kekuewa leads Falcons’ squad though ‘aiha’a’ before kickoff on field

MSU’s LaDarius Perkins attempts to break a tackle by BGSU’s Aaron Foster.
MSU’s LaDarius Perkins attempts to break a tackle by BGSU’s Aaron Foster.

STARKVILLE, Miss. — Davis Wade Stadium was the site of a once-in-a-lifetime pregame event Saturday.

Mississippi State’s stadium hosted a Hawaiian native leading his Ohio teammates in a pregame “dance” before the Bowling Green State University football team faced the Bulldogs.

Only in America, right?

BG’s David “Chief” Kekuewa, a native of Keaau, Hawaii, led his Falcons teammates in a pregame ritual from his native state before BG took on Mississippi State on Saturday night. The dance Kekuewa performed is called the “aiha’a.”

The aiha’a is a bent-kneed hula dance that includes a bombastic form of chanting that represents the eruptive volcanoes found on the islands. Kekuewa said the aiha’a reminds the uninitiated of the “haka” dance made famous by New Zealanders.

“The aiha’a is a traditional Hawaiian dance,” Kekuewa said. “It gets everyone amped — and it gets me amped. It’s a great psyche-up.

“This is to show where the group comes from and what we represent. It’s kind of a ‘battle’ thing, but it’s also a dance you can do when you meet other people.”

Kekuewa has performed the aiha’a just before the Falcons go back into the locker room roughly 10-15 minutes before the game kicks off.

“They tell me they love it,” Kekuewa said. “I did it at the Idaho game last year, and I thought I was only going to do it once.

“But it gets me hyped, and it gets everyone else hyped, so it has been a good thing for our team.”

COME TOGETHER: BG coach Dave Clawson said the first meeting between the Falcons and Mississippi State became a reality when he and Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen talked at a football coaches convention a few years back.

“We were talking, and we talked about the possibility of playing,” Clawson said. “He asked if we were interested in playing, and I asked him what they’d pay.

“When he said what the number was, I said, ‘Hey, we’re interested.’ ”

Mississippi State paid Bowling Green a guarantee of $850,000 for the game.

A WEEK OFF: The Falcons have a bye week this week, and Clawson said he will make some changes to the team’s weekly schedule because of the bye.

Bowling Green does not practice on Mondays, but Clawson also is expected to give the team Tuesday off as well. The practices on Wednesday and Thursday will focus on fundamentals, and the team also will get Friday off.

Clawson said the team will begin preparations for its next opponent, archrival Toledo, on Oct. 26.

THREE-DOT DATA: The Falcons had 18 freshmen, including eight true freshmen, make the trip to Mississippi State. The rest of the 70-man travel list included 16 sophomores, 20 juniors, and 16 seniors. ... The contest is the first Bowling Green has played on grass this season. Before Saturday’s contest BG’s last game on grass came in the Military Bowl, which was played at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. ... Besides being a former Falcons assistant, Mullen’s other northwest Ohio connection is that he met his wife, Megan, while at BG. Megan West was a weekend sports reporter at WNWO Channel 24 when they met. The couple now have two children, Canon and Breelyn Elisabeth.

Contact John Wagner at: jwagner@theblade.com, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.