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.
Kaleb Lay, reporter, can be reached at 647-0329 or email@example.com.