KAPAA — For only the second time all season, the Warriors went into halftime Saturday trailing their opponent.
It was a valuable lesson for the KIF champs during the first round of the First Hawaiian Bank Football Championships — Division II tournament.
They worked through the 22-14 halftime deficit to beat Pearl City 30-22 and advance to the semifinals against Interscholastic League of Honolulu Division II champions and No. 2 seed Iolani.
Now, the Warriors know they can play from behind.
“We did learn that we can come back from deficits. I’m very proud of the way these boys responded to being down. We were never down, except for (a preseason match against Lahainaluna),” said Kapaa head coach Philip Rapozo. “Going into the playoffs, I had my questions of what would happen if we would get down. But I also felt like with the talent and great coaching that we have, we would find a way. The way these kids worked so hard, and were so focused, that they would dig deep if they had to.”
The first-year coach said the Pearl City game helped his team prepare for the next round, specifically defending the pass on the defensive side of the ball.
“We’re good with stopping the run. So as usual, stop the run first,” he said. “We noticed with Iolani, they like to throw things short. They’ll try to get on top of you, but they’re more of an accurate, well-oiled machine — really disciplined and very well-coached. They just execute.
“They like the short (pass) and yards after the catch. They’re so balanced. They’re probably the most balanced team we’ll face,” Rapozo added.
Senior defensive back Chaz Pacleb said the team had prepared for Pearl City’s passing attack but couldn’t execute it until the players settled down in the second half. He hopes whatever knowledge he and his teammates learned from that game will get them to play well from the opening whistle and not let nerves get the best of them.
“We stuck to the game plan. The only thing different in the second half from the first half was that our heads was right,” Pacleb said. “It’s something we weren’t used to. Everybody goes through things they’re not used to. It’s just another thing, but (we worked to) overcome it — just like everything else in life.
“It was good. We needed it coming into this game,” he added. “Coming to Iolani, we needed that Pearl City game. It was a good experience for us. Going into this game, we know they (Iolani) like to throw, too. We’re going to be ready for it.”
The game is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Iolani’s home field. The semifinal matchup will be the first time this year Kapaa will go off island to play.
The team will fly to Oahu the day before the game and Rapozo said he doesn’t foresee traveling to be an issue.
”This is our first road trip. Distractions come with traveling, but I tell the boys if we want to be state champions, we got to be focused — not just on the field but off of the field,” Rapozo said. “When you travel, kids are kids and you got to be on them. But I feel that they’re so focused that they’ll be all right.”