Warriors set for state run
KAPAA — Now that they know who they’re facing, the Warriors are focused on the task at hand.
No. 2 seed Kapaa will host Kaimuki of the Oahu Interscholastic Association in the semifinals of the 2018 First Hawaiian Bank Football Championships–Division II state tournament.
Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. at Vidinha Stadium in Lihue Saturday.
Kapaa (6-2 overall, 5-1 KIF) was in the Division II championship game just two season ago in Honolulu.
Even though the Warriors aim to get back to Aloha Stadium, Kapaa varsity football head coach Philip Rapozo said the team is not looking past this Saturday.
“That’s the great thing about this team. We’ve never looked ahead all season,” Rapozo said. “We’ve never looked ahead of any game, coaches and players. We’ve been there before. We looked ahead before. That didn’t help us. This time around, every week is championship week for us. It’s been like that since game one. Especially after losing, it intensified it more.
“We’re not even thinking about Aloha Stadium right now. Of course, we want to be there. But we’re focused our task this week, which is Kaimuki,” he continued.
Kapaa overcame a 1-2 start to the season and finished with a five-game win streak to win this year’s Kauai Interscholastic Federation championship.
It was the school’s fourth league title in the last five years.
“(The season was) a rollercoaster,” said Warriors junior quarterback Kahanu Davis. “We started off kind of rusty … but we’ve learned, and I think we’re still getting to our full potential.”
Kaimuki (9-3 overall, 8-1 OIA) advanced to the D2 semifinals by defeating Kamehameha Schools–Hawaii of the Big Island Interscholastic Federation in the quarterfinals this past weekend on the Big Island, 28-27.
With less than a minute left, KS-Hawaii scored a touchdown to cut into the Kaimuki’s deficit.
But on the potential game-tying extra point attempt, KS-Hawaii’s kicker missed. The Bulldogs then recovered the ensuing onside kick and ran out the clock to escape Big Island with a win.
Rapozo was in attendance at that quarterfinals game on the Big Island.
“It rained the whole freaking game,” Rapozo said. “I had my jacket and umbrellas.”
Against KS–Hawaii, Kaimuki totaled 265 net rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns.
Bulldogs rusher Naomas Asuega-Fualaau led Kaimuki with 158 rushing yards and a touchdown.
Based on what he saw in the quarterfinals, Rapozo believes his team must win the battles in the trenches.
“On both sides of the ball, we got to dominate the line of scrimmage. We got to win that battle,” he said. “This is probably our biggest task, as far as the size of Kaimuki. So, it’s going to be a great challenge. That’s why the boys play the game. It’s going to be fun.”
Perono also said it all starts upfront for Kapaa’s defense.
“The D-line. (Defensive linemen Kupapa Flores and Joshua Baltazar), if they do their thing, I think we got it and we can stop their running game,” Perono said.
Rapozo said this year’s team took a different road to state tournament compared to the previous team which were in back-to-back state championship games.
But he believes it was not to the team’s detriment.
“This team is really focused. I can say that,” he said. “This team wasn’t favored like the teams we had in the past. Losing the first game, that really gave these kids character and made them a stronger team. They’re taking a different route, I guess I could say. The other three teams, they were favored all three times to win KIF.
“This team, after losing the first preseason game, everybody doubted. … Then we lose the first KIF game. But the kids, it didn’t get to them. They decided they were going to do what they had to do, and so did the coaches. Everybody just put in the work.”
The teams only loss in the regular season was a 13-3 defeat to Kauai High School on Sept. 7. After that loss, the Warriors called a players-only meeting. That was the turning point of their season.
“We made a team meeting. Coaches didn’t do anything. We made a team meeting ourselves and talked about what we can do better,” Perono said. “We worked hard in the weight room. Practice, we went 100 percent. We didn’t walk through stuff. We went 100 percent each drill.”
Davis added: “I think work ethic just got a whole lot better, and the want increased after that game. We didn’t want that same result the next game. We just had to win out.”
Info from Hawaii High School Athletic Association and ScoringLive.
Nick Celario, sports writer, can be reached at 245-0437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.