Wai'anae holds off Kealakehe, 21-14
|||KS-Maui holds off Kaua'i, 14-7|
|||Moanalua tops KS-Hawai'i, 34-20, to reach DII semifinals|
By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Wes Nakama
KAILUA, KONA — Wai'anae survived a major scare from Kealakehe last night but held on to win, 21-14, in the opening round of the HHSAA First Hawaiian Bank Division I State Football Tournament.
Chad Pa'aluhi's interception on the Waveriders' 38-yard line with just under two minutes remaining sealed the victory for the Seariders (9-3) as they were able to run out the clock.
Wai'anae will play O'ahu Interscholastic Association rival Kahuku (9-1) in next week's semifinals at Aloha Stadium. Big Island Interscholastic Federation champion Kealakehe ends its season at 9-3.
But unlike past BIIF teams in the state tournament, the Waveriders gave their fans — a rabid capacity crowd of over 2,000 — a lot to cheer about and nearly gave them a victory.
"I'm very proud of my team, they made the BIIF proud," said Kealakehe coach Sam Papali'i. "It was a great football game — Wai'anae hit us, we hit them — and our kids battled to the end. But give Wai'anae credit. They just made a few more plays than we did."
After the Waveriders closed to 21-14 in the third quarter, Wai'anae controlled the ball in the fourth and had appeared to seal the game with 2:14 remaining when quarterback Henry Keomalu ran into the end zone from 4 yards out. But the officials ruled he fumbled before breaking the plane, and Kealakehe recovered on the 1.
But two plays later, Pa'aluhi intercepted a deep pass to turn the momentum back to the Seariders' side for good.
"I'm glad our guys kept their heads in the game when (the fumble) happened," Wai'anae coach Danny Matsumoto said. "They didn't give up."
The game started with the Waveriders entering the red zone twice but coming up empty, once on a missed field goal and the other time losing the ball on downs.
After a scoreless first quarter, the teams turned the game into a track meet.
Wai'anae struck first on Darius Fuller's 10-yard touchdown run around left end, and Curtis Jones ran in the two-point conversion to make it 8-0.
The Seariders then produced a nine-play, 57-yard drive culminating in Liko Manuel's 25-yard pass to Fuller, and William Duseigner kicked the extra point to give Wai'anae a 15-0 lead with 7:05 remaining in the half.
"We really moved the ball in the first quarter and normally when we're in the red zone we punch it in," Papali'i said. "But we weren't able to, and instead of being up 3-0 or 10-0, we're down 15-0."
Kealakehe finally put together a six-play, 80-yard drive capped by Keoki Limahai's 3-yard scoring run with 4:36 left in the half, cutting the lead to 15-7. Limahai, subbing for starting quarterback Tai Papali'i, set up the TD with a 34-yard scramble after dropping back to pass.
But the Seariders struck again with 18.3 ticks remaining before halftime, with Manuel connecting with Douglas Newman on a 27-yard touchdown pass after taking a swing lateral from Henry Keomalu. Newman caught the pass after it was deflected by a Waveriders defender.
The extra-point attempt failed, bouncing off the left upright, but Wai'anae had a 21-7 lead.
"That last touchdown before the half hurt," Papali'i said.
The Waveriders closed it to 21-14 in the third quarter with an impressive 14-play, 74-yard drive culminating in Limahai's 8-yard scoring pass to Gabe Tuata.
But Wai'anae was able to preserve the lead thanks to a ball control offense led by fullback Nui Stevens (115 yards rushing, 17 carries) and a strong defense.
"That team was pretty tough," Seariders linebacker George Kauwalu said.
"Very much so," he said, when asked if Kealakehe could compete with the OIA's best. "They play with spirit and they don't give up."
WAI'ANAE (9-3) 0 21 0 0 — 21
KEALAKEHE (9-3) 0 7 7 0 — 14
Wai—Darius Fuller 10 run (Curtis Jones run)
Wai—Fuller 25 pass from Liko Manuel (William Duseigner kick)
Kea—Keoki Limahai 3 run (Lanakila Ynigues kick)
Wai—Douglas Newman 27 pass from Manuel (kick failed)
Kea—Gabe Tuata 8 pass from Limahai (Ynigues kick)
RUSHING — Wai'anae: Jones 7-27, Nui Stevens 17-115, Joshua Telles 3-(minus-2), Fuller 6-13, Manuel 1-18, Chris Santiago-Yoshioka 1-8, Henry Keomalu 3-1. Kealakehe: Tai Papali'i 3-12, Max Papali'i 4-1, Shaun Santiago 19-82, Jordan Gacayan 1-4, Tuata 3-6, Limahai 7-43.
PASSING — Wai'anae: Manuel 6-13-0—123, Keomalu 4-6-0—47. Kealakehe: T. Papali'i 3-5-0—71, Limahai 3-5-1—26.
RECEIVING — Wai'anae: Stevens 2-32, Fuller 2-46, Newman 4-64, Charles Humble 1-9, Jones 1-19. Kealakehe: Matt Orvis 1-27, Tuata 3-69, Santiago 1-(minus-4), M. Papali'i 1-5.
Reach Wes Nakama at email@example.com.