HONOLULU — Kauai High School knocked off a giant.
The Red Raiders took down the powerhouse Iolani School, winners of six-consecutive Division II state football championships, 28-7 at the Eddie Hamada Field on Saturday.
The upset victory punches their ticket to the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA State Football Championship game on Saturday.
“It’s a good feeling. The kids just worked so hard,” an elated Tommy John Cox said after the game. “My coaches worked so hard. They deserved everything they got.”
Cox, in his first year as varsity coach, gave much of the credit for the win to Kauai’s offensive line, which helped Kauai move the ball in long, time-chewing drives.
“Our O-line dominated the game,” he said. “They let us move the ball and eat some clock. They won the game for us.”
Kauai finished the game with 369 yards of total offense, 334 of those yards coming from the run. Their running backs attacked the middle of the defense, breaking off long runs against the heart of Iolani’s defense.
Senior running back Reggie McFadden bore the brunt of the work and had 61 yards by halftime, when his team led 14-0. He finished the day with 135 yards rushing on 29 carries and a touchdown. Kanoa Iwasaki finished with 40 yards rushing, 10 yards receiving and two touchdowns. Kyren Rapacon finished with 67 yards rushing on 14 carries and one score.
The ground game remained the primary attack for Kauai.
Senior quarterback Kelson Andrade threw the ball only four times, opting to keep the ball on carries 12 times. He finished with 79 yards rushing and only 35 yards through the air.
Still the offensive recipe worked. And it was aided by the defense.
The defense kept Iolani scoreless all the way until the fourth quarter.
From the start, Kauai held possession for seven minutes, running 14 plays before coming up short with a missed field goal. But Iolani was held to a quick three-and-out before Kauai’s offense took the field again. With under four minutes to go in the first, Rapacon took the handoff from Andrade and ran in for a 3-yard score. Tristan Bukoski kicked the extra point. Bukoski was 4-for-4 in PATs.
Defensively, Bukoski came up with 2.5 tackles, two fumble recoveries and one interception.
“It feels really good. It’s been a tough journey. It’s been rough,” Bukoski said after the game. “There’s been a lot of doubters. We just tried to keep our focus.”
Bukoski said that despite the Red Raiders being up 21-0 by the fourth quarter, he wasn’t ready to celebrate.
“I was nervous all game,” he said. “I wasn’t satisfied at all with 21 [points]. They could always come back because Iolani’s a great team. This is history right here. Who knows? It’s anybody’s game.”
Damian Butac finished the day with five tackles, James Bukoski had four and Kelii Efhan had 3.5 tackles. Kalawaia Judd made key plays finishing with two tackles, two sacks and one deflection. Kaiaea Iwasaki added to the defense with three tackles, one forced fumble and one deflection.
No school of the KIF has ever won a state championship since the tournament’s inception in 1999. Kauai made their first attempt at a state championship in 2006 when they played King Kekaulike of Maui in the championship. That year was the first ever championship that featured two Neighbor Island teams. King Kekaulike is still the only Neighbor Island team to have won a state championship. The Kauai Island Federation champs of Kauai (10-0) now hope that their third trip to Aloha Stadium will be a charm.
Their first trip in 2006 against King Kekaulike of Maui, the first year in which two Neighbor Island teams were featured in the championship, resulted in a 33-20 loss.
Their second trip was against Iolani, also a loss, 24-17.
Andrade is happy that a Kauai school made its way back to the championship game.
“It feels great. The championship means a lot to us,” Andrade said. “We just have to work hard next week. Kaiser and Lahainaluna are good teams. We just have to do our best and be perfect.”
Iolani quarterback Austin Jim On was 27 of 39 for 189 yards and one interception. Receiver Chase Kanekuni scored Iolani’s only touchdown on a 7-yard pass from Jim On.
Now, with the Interscholastic League of Honolulu champions of Iolani (7-5) out of the picture, there is only one team left standing in between the Kauai Red Raiders and being first KIF team to win a state championship. McFadden can’t wait to play in it.
They will face the winner of the Lahainaluna-Kaiser game which was undetermined by press time.
“I’m looking forward to playing at Aloha Stadium for the first time. It’s going to be fun,” McFadden said.