LIHUE — The Warriors are back in the big show.
Kapaa High School’s varsity football team defeated Kaimuki High School of the Oahu Interscholastic Association in the semifinals of the 2018 First Hawaiian Bank Football Championships–Division II state tournament.
The No. 2 seed Warriors beat the Bulldogs, 20-12, Saturday afternoon at Vidinha Stadium to clinch a berth in the Division II championship game. That game is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu.
For Kapaa, it will be their third trip to the championship game in the last four years.
“Man, what a game. We beat a helluva team,” said Kapaa head coach Philip Rapozo. “Those guys, they’re huge. They’re a team. Our team, we played good enough to win. So proud of our boys and our coaches, all the work they’ve put in, but we can’t be satisfied with this. We’ve been there before. We know how it feels to come home not being the state champions, but we got another opportunity. That’s all you can be thankful for — the opportunities. You got to try and make the best of them.”
Kapaa (7-2 overall, 1-0 HHSAA) secured the win on an interception by Warriors junior linebacker Stetson Telles-Kelekoma with seconds left the fourth quarter.
Telles-Kelekoma nabbed an interception earlier in that drive, but a penalty called on Kapaa took away that interception and set up the Bulldogs with a first down and 10 on Kapaa’s 21-yard line.
“It was a bummer. But since I couldn’t get that one, I was like, ‘Let me just redeem myself and get a real one,’” Telles-Kelekoma said. “It was good. I didn’t plan it, though. I was just doing my assignment and my job. I was in the right place and the right time.”
Telles-Kelekoma said of the semifinal win and advancing to the championship game: “For us today, it’s a relief for all the hard work that we put in from months ago, and it’s all paid off. But now, we’re looking forward to winning the big thing. We just got to work harder and harder.”
Prior to Saturday’s game, Rapozo lauded Kaimuki’s size on its offensive and defensive lines. Going against that, Rapozo said the team “just stuck to the game plan.”
“We had to be patient. We made some mistakes and turned over the ball. They did also. We got lucky at times. We executed and made the best of the times that we needed to,” Rapozo said.
Kaimuki (9-4 overall, 1-1 HHSAA) faced an eight-point deficit with just more than a minute left in the fourth quarter. Starting on its own 22-yard line, Kaimuki marched into Kapaa territory.
“The game lived up to the expectations. Kapaa’s a tough team,” said Kaimuki head coach David Tautofi. “They came out and defended their territory. It came down to the small things, and we knew that would happen. Unfortunately, the small things affected us more than it affected them.”
On a third down and 10 on Kapaa’s 21-yard line and with time running down, Bulldogs junior quarterback Jonah Faasoa passed downfield, but his ball ended up getting picked off by Telles-Kelekoma.
“My heart is heavy for the boys. They worked their butts off, but there’s a lot to be proud of,” Tautofi said. “I kind of knew what to expect after that. But the good thing about it is there’s a lot of things to learn — life lessons with this disappointment. But they had a chance (to win), and that’s a good thing.”
Before Kaimuki’s last offensive drive, Kapaa extended its lead on a 31-yard run by Warriors sophomore running back Baba Na-o with just more than a minute left in the final quarter.
“At that point, when Baba took it in, inside you’re relieved. Like, ‘OK, we got it.’ But then you look at the clock, and ‘Oh, boy,’” Rapozo said. “There’s a lot of time. This team can do a lot of things in that time. We’re lucky. Our defense, we bent but we didn’t break.”
Kapaa first got on the board on a 50-yard run by senior running back Ryno Banasihan.
Banasihan ended with 73 yards rushing on six carries and a touchdown. Na-o led the team with 91 yards rushing and a touchdown on 18 carries.
Kaimuki got an early lead in the first quarter on a three-yard run by Bulldogs junior running back Naomas Asuega-Fualaau. He finished with 52 yards rushing and a touchdown on 14 carries.
Faasoa finished going 21-36 for 181 yards passing and two interceptions. Senior running back Elijah Lemalu led Kaimuki with 93 yards rushing and a touchdown on nine carries.
09:54 KAIMUKI Naomas Asuega-Fualaau 3-yard run, Chrisna Chann PAT no good (blocked), 6-0 Kaimuki
07:47 KAPAA Ryno Banasihan 50-yard run, Chysen Lagunes-Rapozo PAT good, 7-6 Kapaa
09:46 KAIMUKI Elijah Lemalu 2-yard run, 2-point conversion failed, 12-7 Kaimuki
07:57 KAPAA Kahanu Davis 9-yard run, Chysen Lagunes Rapozo PAT good, 14-12 Kapaa
01:15 KAPAA Baba Na-o 31-yard run, Chysen Lagunes Rapozo PAT no good (blocked), 20-12 Kapaa
Passing: Kahanu Davis, 4-10, 85 yards, 1 interception
Rushing: Baba Na-o, 18 carries, 91 yards, 1 touchdown
Receiving: Lanakila Pagtolingan, 2 receptions, 68 yards
Defense: Raffy Perono, 7.0 tackles, 1.0 sack
Passing: Jonah Faasoa, 21-36, 181 yards, 2 interceptions
Rushing: Elijah Lemalu, 9 carries, 93 yards, 1 touchdown
Receiving: Alex Lemalu, 4 receptions, 66 yards
Defense: Evangelist Paama, 5.0 tackles
Statistics from ScoringLive.
Nick Celario, sports writer, can be reached at 245-0437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.