LIHUE — Three seconds remained on the game clock Saturday night in the humid air at Vidinha Stadium. The crowd of more than 300 were alive with frenzied cheering, brought to life on a final push by the Rep 50 Kauai All Star Showcase’s Team White.
Three seconds, second down — hardly enough to push for the touchdown — and the White’s Justin Paleka, a senior at Kapaa High School, was pressed into action for a no-pressure field goal from the red zone.
The special Rep 50 white football soared true through the uprights and the celebration resembling a high school graduation started as the White came from behind to take a 16-14 win over Team Purple at the horn.
“I was nervous at first,” said Paleka, who had missed an earlier point-after boot. “It was rough, but I knew the team had my back so I just went for it.”
Paleka was one of 49 football players taking part in the inaugural Rep 50 Kauai Prep Football All Stars Showcase, the roster of Kauai players being supplemented by players from Hilo (Kashtian Ioane, Kadedin Ioane-Ogawa), Waianae (Skyler Kaleiohi, Ezekiel Kelekoma, ending the night as defensive player of the game), and Kapolei (Ransen Pasion).
“There is a lot of talent here,” said Vince Mene, Rep 50 founder and organizer of the showcase. “When you get the top caliber players together, you’re definitely going to get a good game. Our mission is to get these kids recruited. As an independent scout, we’re taking a chance with these kids and trying to get them exposure so someone will put their logo on them.”
Following an opening quarter where the white football bumped along while players adjusted to the showcase format, Team Purple found the end zone in the second quarter when Pasion got the crowd going on a three-yard charge up the middle. The cheering got louder when Chysen Lagunes-Rapozo, a junior at Kapaa High School, split the uprights on the PAT boot for a 7-0 lead at the 10:35 mark.
William Kamaka-Riley, a senior at Waimea High School, answered on the ensuing kickoff, cradling the white pigskin for a 90-yard return for touchdown to stoke the cheering. The PAT failed for the 7-6 mark that came with 10:17 remaining in the half.
“Rivalry,” Mene said. “One of the things we work on is to get these kids to play together and establish relationships they’ll take with them beyond the football field.”
The White’s kickoff return for touchdown stoked the forces as Kamaka-Riley, on the ensuing kickoff, pounced on the short kick on the Purple’s 45-yard line to set up the team’s second score that came when Christian Manera, a Kauai High School senior who ended as Offensive Player of the Game, broke open on a 31-yard run to the end zone at the 8:08 mark.
Paleka’s PAT boot brought the scoreboard to 13-7, White, when a late-period drive sputtered at the end zone when the half started.
Team Purple answered the deficit in the fourth quarter when Hoku Parbo, a Kauai High School junior playing safety, broke the plane at the end of a 23-yard run, Lagunes-Rapozo doing the PAT honors with 11:06 remaining in the game.
“This was a fun experience,” Paleka said following his go-ahead field goal. “I’m glad I got to play with these guys one last time. I got accepted by the University of Hawaii at Manoa where I’ll go after graduating. I won’t be playing football there. But if the chance comes along, I’ll look at it. I’m satisfied with this.”