LIHUE — The third time was the charm, indeed, for the Kauai High School Red Raiders, who edged out a last-minute 6-3 win on Saturday against the Kapaa High School Warriors, becoming this year’s Kauai Interscholastic Federation champions.
“I’m excited for these kids,” Red Raiders Head Coach Tommy John Cox said after the game, which his team won on a last second field goal. “These are a great bunch of kids and coaches — I couldn’t ask for better coaches than that. So, it’s all thanks to these coaches and kids that we’ve made it this far.”
The win, which happened during Kauai High School’s homecoming game, marked the third time the Red Raiders and Warriors played each other and the third loss suffered by the Warriors this season.
The other two losses were incurred at the hands of the Red Raiders earlier in the season.
Securing the win, however, was not easy, as both teams battled the entire game.
For the Red Raiders, the objective was the same as every other game this season: Come out, execute and win.
The difficult part, Cox said, was preparing his team for another matchup with the Warriors.
“We had to focus on a lot of things, actually,” James Bukoski, a tight end, linebacker and running back for the Red Raiders, said after the game. “ We had to do so much work this week at practice. For us, our defense had to keep going and our offense had to pick it up because they haven’t been doing very good from the last few games, so we’ve been practicing really hard this week.”
On the other side of the field, Warriors Head Coach Kelii Morgado, said he worked to bolster his team’s offense and defense before the game.
“That’s a fast defense — it’s tough to move the ball on them,” Morgado said after the game. “We weren’t as successful enough at that. Defensively, we wanted to stop their running game and I thought we did pretty good at that.”
And the challenges didn’t end there.
During the first half of the game, the only score was a 32-yard field goal made by Red Raiders wide receiver and cornerback Pono Bukowski from the 16-yard line with 7 minutes, 34 seconds left in the half.
But things heated up in the second half when both teams made hard drives down the field.
In the third quarter, an interception made by Warriors linebacker Mosese Fifita set up a 43-yard field goal to tie the game.
The teams traded defensive stands until the final drive of the fourth quarter, when Kauai drove the ball from midfield to set up a game-winning field goal from inside the 10 yard line. The kick by Bukoski with 2 seconds left, sealed the win, and the title.
“It feels great because it’s my third year on varsity and my second year playing in KIF and I hope we make it to states this time,” Red Raiders running back, tight end, cornerback Reggie McFadden said after the game.
The Red Raiders will finish up the KIF season next weekend when they will play the Waimea High School Menehune at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 26 in Hanapepe.