LIHUE – For 23 minutes, 5,000 fans were watching their hopes and dreams slip away.
Up 24-7 at the half, Waimea looked well on its way to defeating Oahu Interscholastic Federation powerhouse Kailua in the Chevron State Football quarterfinals. But the Surfriders came pounding in the final two quarters, scoring 14 unanswered points to get within a touchdown of a come-from-behind victory.
“Well, think of it this way,” one reporter reasoned in the press box. “Who would ever have thought they’d be leading by that much at halftime. If they lose, they can still chalk this one up as a personal victory.”
But a personal victory was not what the Menehune were looking for. Not after 11 Kaua’i Interscholastic Federation titles. Not after eliminating Oahu teams twice in the past three years. And especially not after all the times the undervalued team has had to play for respect, even when they had already earned it the season before.
“Just look at the size difference,” the reporter continued, pointing to the Kailua bench.
Yeah, they’re big, but so are the Menehune. Only you can’t see it.
It’s not in their biceps, or their height, or in the number of guys lining their bench.
It’s inside. It’s hidden. And it only comes out when the moment calls for something big.
In under one minute, 5,000 fans were watching their hopes and dreams come true.
Surfrider quarterback Ranson Kepa took the snap from the nine-yard line. Down by three and with the 30-seconds remaining in regulation, he threw a big pass to a big receiver on a big down in the biggest game of the season.
But it was the Menehune – the little people – who came up big.
Tyson Fernandez intercepted Kepa in the end-zone, leaving no hope for a Surfrider comeback. Waimea sealed a 24-21 win, its third quarterfinal win in four years. The Menehune defeated Castle last year, 41-20, and Kailua, 20-18, in 1999.
“It was a tough game. Kailua made the right adjustments in the second half to get back in it,” said Menehune head coach Jon Kobayashi. “But our boys were able to step it up on defense, and our assistant coaches did a great job. They made the right calls and deserve much of the credit.”
The Menehune coaches made the right calls on Friday night, but it was the staff’s instruction through the past decade that led up to Kailua’s defeat.
The Menehune players are taught to play fearless football, and it clearly shows when they face off-island teams with husky players and lengthy rosters.
To the Menehune, size doesn’t matter.
“It’s not really that they have no fear,” said Kobayashi. “We keep telling the guys, ‘They put on their pants the same way you do. They aren’t super humans. They are young guys like you.'”
Waimea will next face St. Louis in the State semifinals at Aloha Stadium. The Crusaders eliminated Farrington with a 41-23 win Friday.