LIHUE — Kapaa High School linebacker Jeffrey Brown saw the ball coming in his direction when Kaimuki quarterback Jayden Maiava attempted his last pass in the middle of the field on fourth-and-six with the ball at the Warriors’ 33-yard-line with 3:32 left in the fourth quarter and the Bulldogs trailing 35-28.
Brown admitted his first reaction was to bat the ball down, and when he stepped in front of the Maiava offering, the result was even better. Brown intercepted the ball, and was immediately wrapped up by Jonah Fa’asoa after a 1-yard return.
Brown’s interception allowed the Kapaa Warriors’ offense to run out the clock and secure a 35-28 victory in the semifinal of the First Hawaiian Bank Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division II championships.
With the victory, the Warriors advance to play the winner of the Lahainaluna-Roosevelt game this Friday, Nov. 29, at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu.
“The quarterback was in shotgun, and I just kept telling myself to stay in front of the three receivers behind me,” Brown said in a post-game interview. “After I caught, I held onto the ball as hard as I could. I nearly fumbled the ball numerous times today, but I just held on it as best as I could.”
The Warriors, who held the momentum for the majority of the game, leading the Bulldogs 35-14, struggled to keep the explosive Kaimuki offense down in the second half until Brown’s interception.
Kaimuki scored late in the third quarter when Maiava connected with wide receiver Koby Moananu on a touchdown strike.
Then Maiava connected with Fa’asoa on a 23-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t enough to lead his team to a full-fledged comeback.
Led by Warriors’ quarterback Kahanu Davis, who threw for 174 yards and three touchdowns, Kapaa sealed the victory and allowed themselves the chance to compete for a state title.
The semifinal victory marks the fourth championship game the Warriors have been in since head coach Philip Rapozo took over the program in 2014.
Davis and Kapaa running back Baba Na-O, who have accounted for the majority of the backfield yardage for the Warriors all season, continued that trend in the postseason.
They combined for a total of 311 yards rushing to allow the Warriors to stick to their game plan and control the flow of the game.
In the game, Davis and the Warriors drew first blood on their opening drive.
The backfield duo accounted for the majority of the Warriors’ yardage, and it ended with Davis scoring on a 1-yard touchdown run.
Kapaa expanded its lead in the second quarter when Na-O scored on a 1-yard touchdown rush with 11:56 left to go, giving them a 13-0 lead.
The Bulldogs responded when Maiava linked up with Moananu on a four-yard touchdown connection with 5:51 left in the second quarter.
The Warriors then would go on an onslaught in the third quarter. Davis scored on a 15-yard touchdown pass to Dreyden Iwamoto with 9:10 left in the quarter.
On the Warriors’ next possession, Davis cashed in on an 8-yard rushing touchdown to widen the lead 28-7 with 7:42 in the third.
Maiava connected with Kaulana Kaluna on a 36-yard connection with 5:18 left the third but, once again, the Bulldogs couldn’t stop Davis.
The Warriors answered when Davis scampered for a 35-yard touchdown with 4:18 left in the third, then the Bulldogs answered with a score of their own.
Before the end of the third quarter, Maiava connected with Moananu on a 3-yard touchdown pass with 2:06 left to play, and the Bulldogs narrowed the deficit to seven when he connected with Fa’asoa for a 23-yard touchdown pass with 8:05 left in the fourth, concluding the scoring for both teams.
“Kapaa is a well-coached team, and they understand they are a hell of a team, and they are sharp and didn’t too many things to shoot themselves in the foot,” Bulldogs coach David Tautofi said. “It was a heck of a game, and you always hope for that.”
Rapozo said after the game he and his coaching staff would be getting ready for the Nov. 29 championship.
“I promise you every one of my coaches will be watching the film tonight, and they will have Sunday off to go to church and be with their families. There were a lot of supporters in the stands, and it helped drive the kids and the coaching staff to work harder,” Rapozo said.
Davis, who finished with 175 yards on the ground and was 4-of-6 passing for 62 yards, credited Brown with the momentum-stopping interception as the tipping point of the game.
“My boy Jeff getting that pick, that was the best moment in the game,” Davis said. “After he got that interception, that was the game-clincher for us.”
After that, Davis and his team melted the clock away, but it wasn’t comfortable to hold off the surging Bulldogs’ defense.
Davis, who will be playing in his second-consecutive state championship game, credits the playoff experience of his team to get them back to the title game.
“The coaches keep telling us to stay inbound, and it was just great to kneel and go on to the state championship,” Davis said.
Jason Blasco, sports reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.