HANAPEPE — On a rainy and soaked night on Kauai’s Westside, a new league champion was crowned.
Kauai High School’s varsity football team defeated Waimea High, 23-3, Saturday evening at Hanapepe Stadium to win the school’s first Kauai Interscholastic Federation championship since 2013.
“I’m really happy. We put a game plan together, and the boys worked the game plan,” said Kauai head coach Derek Borrero. “We had a Plan A, Plan B and Plan C, and we went to all three. … The boys were able to take care of that for us.”
Kauai (5-2, 4-1 KIF) went into halftime with a 16-0 lead. Red Raiders junior quarterback Christian Manera scored both of Kauai’s touchdowns in the half.
Late in the first quarter, Manera scored on a 37-yard run. Then in the second quarter, playing as a defensive back on the other side of the ball, he recovered a fumble in the Red Raiders end zone and took it 100 yards the other way for his second score of the night.
When asked if that touchdown was when he felt the game was won, Borrero said experience has taught him otherwise.
“You want to feel that way, but you know — you’ve been around the game and you’ve coached long enough to know — you better erase that thought in your mind right away,” he said. “If not, it’s going to be a real low if we just put it into cruise control, especially when you’re playing against Waimea.
“The dangerous part of coming out of the locker room at the second half, you know Waimea is traditional — adjustment-oriented,” he continued. “You see how successful they’ve been this year. They’re the most dangerous in the third quarter. I don’t care what the score is. They’re going to come at you. … Not for a second was I complacent.”
The Red Raiders scored once more in the fourth quarter. Senior running back Jaykob Nakaahiki-Young punched in a touchdown on a 2-yard run.
“That (touchdown) meant everything to me, especially scoring a KIF championship as a senior,” Nakaahiki- Young said. “It’s just so surreal, and I just want to thank God and my O-lineman. The O-line created that nice hole for me. It was a wide-open path for me to take. I took it, and I just walked into the endzone.”
Waimea (3-3, 2-3 KIF) scored in the third quarter on a 34-yard field goal by Menehune sophomore Kawelo Huddy.
The Menehune got into the Red Raiders red zone on a punt return to the 7-yard line by senior Avery Miguel in the second quarter.
On the 2-yard line later in the drive, Menehune senior running back William Kamaka-Riley attempted to get to pay dirt on a run but fumbled the ball in the end zone, which led to Manera’s touchdown return.
At the start of the fourth quarter and facing a 16-3 deficit, Waimea attempted a fake field goal attempt on a 4th down and 6. Rather than kicking, Huddy took the ball and attempted a pass downfield, but his attempt fell incomplete to turn the ball over on downs.
“We didn’t take care of the ball. We didn’t do the little things,” said Waimea head coach Jason Caldeira. “We weren’t focusing on protecting the ball, the the little things. But those little things are very important.”
Caldeira added: “Just want to say congratulations to Kauai High School, to the coaching staff and the players. Outstanding job. Extra blessings to Coach Borrero. Just a heck of a job, man, to their staff. They did a great job. Great season, and much respect to them.”
For the Red Raiders, the game was especially emotional. Borrero said his mother died two weeks prior and the funeral was the day of the game.
“My mom was a team mom, a booster president. And my dad, once the funeral was done, he said, ‘Get your butt to the school and go win your mom a championship,’” Borrero said. “The boys played hard today. They rallied around the situation, and just really happy for them.”
He added: “I’ll tell you what. These boys saved me these last two weeks. The football field, like for some of these kids, it’s a sanctuary. It’s some place we can go for three, three-and-a-half hours and forget about everything that’s going on in our lives from home to whatever’s happening. They embraced me and the situation, they practiced hard and did everything we asked them. They’re the big reason why we’re here.”
Nakaahiki-Young added: “I definitely got to say that that brought the team closer. There was a different type of vibe. There was a different bond in the locker room. Everybody had a sense of purpose and urgency. We knew what we wanted to do. We knew what we were playing for. We were playing for our moms today, for God and for his (Borrero’s) mom especially. We had it in our hearts and minds, and that’s what helped us today.”
The KIF season continues afterSaturday when Waimea plays against Kapaa (3-3, 1-3 KIF) at Vidinha Stadium. The junior varsity game will start at noon and the varsity will follow. This will be Waimea’s last game of 2017.
“Without bad, you wouldn’t know what is good,” Caldeira said. “I just hope that our seniors, we got one more week left with them. I just hope they make the best out of this week, that they learn how to turn their troubles around and rise up. Rise up just like how Menehunes do.”
The football season will conclude Oct. 21 when Kauai High and Kapaa play at Vidinha.