The talk heading into the first game of the KIF season was of Waimea being the darkhorse. After Saturday night, that talk may change to that of a frontrunner.
The Menehune put an early statement on the 2011 season by beating the Kaua‘i Red Raiders, 27-7, at Hanapepe Stadium.
The Menehune defense forced six turnovers on the game and was the difference for Waimea head coach Keali‘i Aguiar’s squad.
“Our defense played really well tonight against an explosive team,” Aguiar said. “When they play like that it sets the tone and it lets our offense have the ability to be more aggressive.”
Starring on both sides of the ball for the Menehune was quarterback Alika Emayo.
Waimea is known as a team that dominates on the ground, but a series of plays late in the second quarter showed the Menehune have the ability to air it out.
After an interception by Kaua‘i quarterback Trey Aguano, the Menehune capitalized with a 16-yard touchdown pass from Emayo to Devan Banasihan Kenney.
The pass worked so well for the Menehune that they took to the air on the next play, with Emayo sailing a two-point conversion attempt into the corner of the endzone to convert the play.
While Emayo was effective with the ball through the air, going 3-5 for 60 yards, his biggest contribution was disrupting Aguano.
As a defensive back, Emayo picked off Aguano three times during the game.
Aguano finished with five interceptions on the game, although Kaua‘i head coach Cory Aguano said the interceptions weren’t the fault of his quarterback.
“The passes were there tonight. He was on target. Our receivers just couldn’t catch the ball,” Coach Aguano said. “We’re a team that airs it out. That’s us. We have to shape up and catch the ball because that’s our money.”
Trey Aguano finished with 131 yards through the air, but was only about 33 percent on his passes.
The Red Raiders were able to sustain a good running attack, as Keoki Pantorilla carved up the Menehune defense for 96 yards on 18 carries.
But it was the all-around Menehune effort that kept the Raiders out of the game.
Banasihan Kenney had 72 yards on the ground, including a touchdown run, while Emayo added 52 yards himself.
It was Emayo’s ability to run the ball, with the threat of the pass still in play, that stifled the Red Raider defense.
“He’s very elusive,” Coach Aguano said. “He had a very good game for them.”
Something that both teams had trouble with was holding onto the football. The teams combined for 10 turnovers on the game.
While the Red Raiders had trouble with keeping their passes out of the hands of the Menehune, Waimea had difficulty on the snaps.
Emayo fumbled three snaps, losing two of them, and had another fumble in the second quarter that he recovered.
“We really got to do a better job taking care of the football,” Aguiar said.
Despite the win, the Waimea coach said his team has a lot of room to improve. He wants his team to focus on sustaining longer drives forcing more three-and-outs on defense.
But for the night, after several seasons of being the KIF doormat, Aguiar said he’s satisfied with the win and what it means for the school to take down the eight-time defending champion Red Raiders.
“It’s a big win for us. It’s a big win for this school,” Aguiar said. “It sets the tone for the season. But the moment we get on the bus tonight we’ll be thinking about our next game.”