Warriors shut out Menehune in return to KIF action

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Kapa‘a’s Tyrus Alao tries to shake the defense of Waimea’s Joseph Sams for a two-yard gain to end the third quarter, Saturday during the KIF football games contested at Hanapepe Stadium.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Kapa‘a defender Connor Payomo catches his breath in the second quarter following a 43-yard runback of an interception for touchdown, Saturday during the KIF football games contested at the Hanapepe Stadium.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Waimea junior varsity’s Shawn Parraga churns for yardage in the fourth quarter Saturday during the Kaua‘i Interscholastic Federation football opener at Hanapepe Stadium.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Kapa‘a’s Kian Rapozo is pulled down on the Waimea 23-yard line in the first quarter Saturday during the Kaua‘i Interscholastic Federation football opener at Hanapepe Stadium.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Waimea’s Josiah Banasihan is pursued by Kapa‘a’s Connor Payomo after pulling in a pass for a first down on the Waimea 40-yard line in the first quarter Saturday during the Kaua‘i Interscholastic Federation football opener at Hanapepe Stadium.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Kapa‘a’s Solomone Malafu is upended at the Kapa‘a 10-yard line after intercepting a pass by Waimea in the third quarter Saturday during the Kaua‘i Interscholastic Federation football opener at Hanapepe Stadium.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Kapa‘a High School’s Eli Keoho and Bob Tolenoa defend on a long pass intended for Waimea’s Makenyah Okeigar and Josiah Banasihan in the third quarter Saturday at the Kaua‘i Interscholastic Federation football game at Hanapepe Stadium. See more photos and the story, B1.

HANAPEPE — In the long-awaited return to Saturday afternoons on the gridiron, high-school football made a comeback yesterday as the Waimea Menehune hosted the Kapa‘a Warriors at Hanapepe Stadium.

In a battle of opposing offensive strategies, the Warriors entered the game with a punishing rushing attack spearheaded by senior runningback Kian Rapozo, while the Menehune leaned on the arm of senior quarterback Tristen Shigematsu.

Despite home-field advantage and a sideline energized enough to earn a warning from referees early in the game, Waimea was unable to muster a score, and Kapa‘a went home with a 42-0 victory under its belts.

The Warriors struck first on a 2-yard touchdown run by Rapozo, made possible by a fourth-down conversion on a run by Kaikea Tandal. After an apparent botched snap on the point-after attempt, the Warriors’ Connor Payomo managed to convert a two-point attempt instead, putting the visitors on top 8-0.

The Menehune did their best to respond, marching the ball into Warrior territory with the help of an unintentional facemask penalty against Kapa‘a, but fumbled on an exchange and turned the ball over. The Warriors were quick to capitalize, scoring just a few plays later on a 14-yard touchdown run by senior Tyrus Alao. With the point-after, the Warriors went up 15-0 with 35 seconds left in the first quarter.

The Warrior defense kept constant pressure on Waimea’s passing attack, repeatedly flushing Shigematsu out of the pocket and forcing him to scramble. Waimea fumbled again on the first play of the second quarter. Payomo came up with the ball for the Warriors, who returned possession a few plays later after a failed fourth-down conversion.

Payomo was a big factor in the Warriors’ defensive showing. The senior linebacker came up with an 11-yard sack during the next drive, then turned around the next play to pick off a Shigematsu pass, taking it all the way to the end zone for the Warriors’ third score of the game. But the Menehune showed their resilience as they blocked the point-after attempt, holding the score to 21-0. Shigematsu was intercepted again in Warrior territory after a tipped pass found its way into the hands of Solomone Malafu.

The Warriors’ ferocious rushing attack continued in the second half as they scored again in the opening moments of the half and twice more in the fourth quarter to end the game with a resounding 42-0 victory. The Menehune again didn’t let up in the final moments of the game, blocking another point-after attempt with 1:09 remaining in the fourth.

But the first game back after more than a year without football meant more than the scoreboard could reflect. After the game, Kapa‘a head coach Mike Tresler reflected on football’s return to the gridiron after a year-long hiatus due to the pandemic.

“Just all of us being here and being able to play football is a huge accomplishment,” said Tresler. “And for everybody. For the community, the state. I just really feel bad for these kids for what they’ve had to experience, and everybody in the past year and a half. It’s just great to be back playing football.”

Even so, the Warriors will have a break this week as the Waimea Menehune take on the Kaua‘i High Red Raiders at Vidinha Stadium this Saturday at 2:30 p.m.

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Kaleb Lay, reporter, can be reached at 647-0329 or klay@thegardenisland.com.​

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