LIHUE – The Kailua Surfriders had to purchase 80 round trip plane tickets from Oahu to Kaua’i, lug thousands of pounds of helmets and pads and land in Lihue knowing they just lost the OIA championship to Castle, an undersized team they should have beat.
Now they have to return to Oahu stumped with a question few teams have been able to answer: How do you beat the Waimea Menehune on Kaua’i?
With Kailua down three points and in scoring position late in the fourth quarter, defensive back Tyson Fernandez intercepted a pass from the Surfriders’ Ranson Kepa to hand the Menehune a thrilling 24-21 Friday night in the quarterfinals of the Chevron State High School Football Championships at Vidinha Stadium in Lihue.
The Surfriders, who committed seven turnovers against a bruising Waimea defense, scored 14 unanswered points in the second half to climb to within three points of the Menehune. But on fourth down, with just under one minute left in the game, Kepa threw his sixth interception of the night to hand the Menehune the victory. It was Kailua’s second quarterfinal loss on Kaua’i. They fell 20-18 to the Menehune in 1999.
Waimea will next face St. Louis in the semifinals at Aloha Stadium. The Crusaders ousted Farrington 35-17 last night on Oahu.
For the second time in two weeks, Kailua’s mighty offense, which averaged over 450 yards a game in the regular season, was held at bay by a smaller, undersized football program.
The Surfriders were held to just 55 yards rushing and 313 yards of total offense. Kepa completed 18 of 26 passes for 238 yards, but his six interceptions, one which defensive back Dane Koga ran back 25-yards for a touchdown, proved to be the difference for the turnover-prone Surfriders.
Koga nabbed two interceptions in the game. His second pick set up a 28-yard pass from Palacio to Fernandez that put the Menehune on the one-yard line. Waimea running back Jordon Dizon, who rushed for 58 yards and two touchdowns, ran it in from there to give Waimea a 10-7 first half lead.
Fernandez picked off Kepa twice. He also caught 2 passes for 70 yards, each catch setting up Menehune touchdowns.
The Menehune also got a major defensive boost from Oliver Moniz, who had a number of key tackles in the game.
The Surfriders struck first with a 16-yard TD pass from Kepa to Bradley Ching late in the first quarter.
Penalties hurt Waimea’s ensuing drive, but Cory Rita knocked in a 43-yard field goal to pull the Menehune to within four points of the lead.
Waimea took over in the second quarter.
Koga intercepted a Kepa pass and ran it back 25-yards for a TD to give the Menehune a 17-7 lead.
Sacks from Bryson Taroma and Dizon and a second interception from Koga rendered the Surfriders stagnate in the second quarter.
A one-yard rushing touchdown by Dizon, stemming from a 28-yard pass from Palacio to Fernandez late in the second quarter, gave the Menehune a 24-7 lead at the half.
The Surfriders staged a comeback in the final two periods.
Shutting out the Menehune in the third and fourth quarters, Kepa connected on TD passes of 14 and 11 yards.
They would get one more opportunity to score, but Fernandez’ interception with just seconds on the clock sealed the win for the Menehune.