WAIMEA – There it was, just one yard across a delicately moist, trimmed sheet of grass. One yard to continue it. One yard to end it.
It should have been easier.
There was a hole, that much we’re sure of. And behind that hole was a swarm of blinding red pads, and behind that, a thick white line.
He’s about to break through. He’s going to finish it, can’t you see? Championship bells will ring, blue jerseys will soon be awash with whatever it is they put in those coolers.
This is the way it should be.
He should be the Waimea Menehune to cross that line, he should be the one to make it 11 straight titles. After all, he’s rushed for over 1,000 yards this season. He scored fifteen touchdowns. He’s the best they’ve got – he could be the best they ever had.
But why, then, can he not break through? He’s tried twice already – on two muscling downs – and he’s still not through.
After 15 plays and 81 yards, one full step shouldn’t pose such a quandary for the Menehune. After 4 straight regular season wins, after outscoring the league 125-23, after 10 straight titles, and they can’t pick up one little yard?
The hand-off is sharp, he sees the hole and barrels in for another try.
If they don’t get him in this time, question marks are going to invade like a pack of fiery Red Raider jerseys. They don’t want to hear them. No one does. This is the Waimea Menehune football team. Nothing has changed. This is the same disciplined football team from year’s past – the same depth of mettle with the same devotion to the program’s seemingly full-proof system.
His chin tucks into his chest – his knees bounce in a rhythmic fury as he crashes through a dancing sea of red and blue. He looks down and sees the white line – he’s through. It’s 7-7. Soon enough this will be over. They will score again – they will be champs.
But it should have been easier.
Why wasn’t it?
“I have to give credit to the Kaua’i Red Raiders, they were ready for us,” said Menehune head coach Jon Kobayashi.
Indeed they were.
Running back Jordon Dizon ran for 166 yards on 29 carries, his lowest offensive output of the season. The Raiders forced four Menehune turnovers – they caused one of the best running offenses in the State to fumble twice.
“Coach Keli’i Morgado and his Raiders were well prepared,” said Kobayashi. “The game was decided on where the ball fell and we were just fortunate it fell our way.”
Despite the turnovers, despite 9 penalties which put them back 71 yards and despite a Raider defense begging to differ on every Big Blue run play, the ball did certainly fall their way.
Menehune DB Tyson Fernandez picked up a fumble in the third quarter and ran it back 42-yards for a 14-7 Waimea lead. The Menehune had made plenty of mistakes before, but it took just one Raider mistake to turn the tide.
“Hey, that’s football,” the coach says.”
And that’s how football was meant to be played.
A slim win. A shred of uncertainty. A fourth-quarter game. The KIF hasn’t seen this kind of football in years – the kind of football that forces the Menehunes to fight from start to finish.
“These boys have really played their hearts out,” said Kobayashi. “I’m proud of this team.”
Some may have wanted it to be easier, but not the Menehunes.
Now that they’ve faced real challenges against real football teams, they can carry the KIF title knowing just how much they’ve earned it.