LIHUE — The Kapaa Warriors kept their KIF title hopes alive Saturday, throttling the Waimea Menehune 41-7 at Vidinha Stadium.
Improving to 3-2 on the season, the Warriors bounced back from a devastating 7-6 loss against the Kauai High Red Raiders Sept. 28, setting up a must-win showdown with the Red Raiders Saturday.
“Waimea made some key mistakes early on that allowed us to jump on top of them,” said head coach of the Warriors, Kelii Morgado, on how his team kept the Menehune out of it early. “But we started out with a drive first score … and our defense gave us the ball a lot.”
The Warriors opened the game with the ball and they didn’t waste time.
On the first play of the game from their own 34-yard line, starting quarterback Turtle Kuhaulua hit receiver Fresno Masaniai for a 22-yard gain. After a false start on the following play, the Warriors picked up another 34 yards on the next two plays on a 26-yard completion from Kuhaulua to Kaikea Sonoda and a 8-yard run from running back Leevi Bethal.
Then Kuhaulua found Kanai Thornas-Kahoonei for a 21-yard touchdown with 9:16 left in the first quarter to get Kapaa on the board.
If giving up a score in a little under three minutes wasn’t already bad enough for the Menehune, they made things worse on the ensuing kickoff.
Returner Acetyn Emayo, who fielded the ball at the 4-yard line, coughed the ball up at the Menehune 16-yard line after taking a hit.
Kuhaulua punched it in on the first play of the new drive, hitting a wide open Sonada in the end zone for a 8-yard touchdown, pushing the Kapaa lead to 14-0 with 9:05 left in the first quarter.
Waimea was unable to move the ball on their offense’s first drive of the game, gaining only two yards before being forced to punt it back to Kapaa.
The Warriors made quick work again.
On a third down and seven from the Waimea 35-yard line, Kuhaulua connected with Rudy Agoot for a 28-yard gain, bringing Kapaa to the 6-yard line.
Waimea’s defense held, forcing the Kapaa to try for a field goal. Jonathan Paleka hit the field goal from the 9-yard line to push the score to 17-0 with 5:10 remaining in the first quarter.
Both teams stalled out on the game’s next two drives, but the Warriors eventually got things rolling.
Following an interception from Bethal on Waimea quarterback Kiliona Russell-Moe at the Kapaa 44-yard line, the Warrior offense took the field.
On the first play of the drive, quarterback Kuhaulua hit Masaniai again for a big gain, this time for 35 yards.
Two plays later, on second and eight from the Waimea 19-yard line, Kuhaulua found Daniel Alonzo for a 19-yard touchdown. Paleka remained perfect on the point after, pushing their lead to 24-0 with 11:50 remaining in the first half.
Defense was the name of the game on the game’s following four possessions. The Warriors forced Waimea to punt three times while the Menehune forced a fumble and turnover on downs on Kapaa’s two possessions.
However, on the Warriors third possession following their score, Kapaa charged in for another six.
From their own 24-yard line, the Warriors put together a 5-play, 76-yard drive that was capped off by a two-yard touchdown rush by Kuhaulua for a 31-0 advantage, a score which held at halftime.
Waimea opened up the second half with a promising drive, but didn’t get any points on the board to show for it.
After moving the ball for 29 yards and spotting it at the Kapaa 41-yard line, the Menehune started going backwards.
On third and eight Waimea committed a false start pushing them back five yards. The Menehune earned nine yards on the following play and went for it on fourth down where they failed to convert.
Kapaa took over possession but made a costly error on the second play of the drive.
Kapaa’s Bethal fumbled the ball on a rush at the their own 47-yard line, leading to a recovery and 47-yard touchdown return by Emayo. Waimea hit their first PAT of the game to cut the Kapaa deficit to 31-7.
But that was all the points Waimea would score.
The Warriors answered on their next possession when Masaniai, now at quarterback, hit Kuhaulua for a 5-yard touchdown. Kapaa remained perfect with the point after, pushing their advantage back to 31 points at 38-7 with 3:39 remaining in the third quarter.
Kapaa’s defense held on a fourth and 11 try from Waimea in the fourth quarter, setting them up for their final score of the game.
Kapaa capped its drive, which started from their own 46-yard line, with a 37-yard field goal from Kuhaulua with 4:40 left in the game to bring the score to 41-7.
Kapaa’s Alonzo picked off a Malu Games pass on the Menehune’s following drive to seal Waimea’s fate.
Morgado credited his team’s focus on moving on from their tough loss two weeks ago for their win against the Menehune.
Head coach of the Menehune, Kealii Agular, said that it wasn’t only turnovers that hurt his team’s chances, but also the Warrior defense.
“It was good coaching on their part,” said Agular. “They stacked the box, took away the run and forced us to throw. We couldn’t execute, even a simple hitch or simple stick plays.”
Agular was proud of his team’s effort and attitude in the second half but pointed to his team’s execution for their downfall.
Waimea falls to 0-5 on the season while the Warriors improve to 3-2.
• In JV action Saturday, Kapaa beat Waimea 28-8.
KIF football returns next week Saturday, when the Kapaa Warriors take on the Kauai Red Raiders at Vidinha Stadium. Kauai will have their homecoming and action will start with the JV at noon with the varsity to follow at 2:30 p.m.
• Tyson Agbayani, sports writer, can be reached at 245-0437 or email@example.com.