This one “was a little bit different,” Kealakehe coach Sam Kekuaokalani admitted Saturday when it was over, but it certainly beat the alternative.
On the same football field and in a similar situation two seasons ago, the Waveriders wilted at Waiakea’s Ken Yamase Memorial Stadium, ruining their postseason chances.
Kekuaokalani didn’t bring up that loss – a low point for the program in recent times – before his team’s return trip, “but I’m not going to forget that one, let’s put it that way,” he said.
Clinching yet another berth in the BIIF Division I championship game could hasten some memory loss, however.
Jorden Himalaya led a balanced attack by accounting for four touchdowns in Kealakehe’s 47-22 victory against the Warriors in a steamy matinee that also featured doses of bend-but-break defense and solid special teams from the Waveriders, a Waiakea trick play and spirited – if not heated – play from both sides.
‘This was a good test for us,” senior linebacker Malositele Abraham said. “We’ve improved; filling goals and tackling.
“We had some miscommunication, but we play for our families.”
Kealakehe (4-1) rushed for 237 yards – Elijah Kahele led the way with 127 and a touchdown – passed for 217, played turnover-free and got a pick-six from Kelii Pelekane in ending the playoff hopes of Waiakea (3-3), which couldn’t finish drives on senior day and lost for the third time in four games.
“Keep fighting,” Warriors coach Neil Azevedo said. “These boys stayed hungry, made a few mistakes.”
Himalaya completed 18 of 30 passes with touchdown strikes to Kainoa Jones and Teyler Frasier on Kealakehe’s first two possession to give the Waveriders the lead, and he tacked on a pair of scoring runs in the second half to keep them out of harm’s way.
“We’re not looking for any particular balance, we’re just taking what we see and what the defense is giving us,” Kekuaokalani said. “I was looking for better decision-making from (Jorden) as far as reads and being sure. For the most part, he did well.”
On Oct. 26 or 27, Kealakehe will take another crack at five-time defending D-I champion Hilo (5-0) in the title game. The teams have met in the final in six of the past seven years – the exception being 2016.
Kealakehe senior Koarii Atkinson-Sioloa was at Hilo High two years ago when the Warriors upset the Waveriders to reach the playoffs.
“I remember it, but we were just focusing on bettering ourselves,” said Atkinson-Sioloa, a wide receiver/defensive back. “I think this was our best execution, but there is always room for improvement. We made errors, but we can fix it.”
Atkinson-Sioloa has been one of the Waveriders’ top receivers at times this season, but Kealakehe has myriad play-makers, allowing him to start on defense.
Himalaya spread the ball around to seven different receivers and Joshua Mangayayam complemented the running game by rumbling for 51 yards, while Raymond Skillern added 31.
“We all have that time to shine,” Atkinson-Sioloa said, “and we’re all supporting each other.”
Waiakea junior quarterback Justin Nakamoto-Baltazar threw for 270 yards, including an 80-yard hook-and-lateral pass in which Xavier Toyfoya went the final 75 to cap the scoring on 15-of-26 passing with two touchdown passes and one run.
Moving the ball wasn’t the problem for the Warriors, who compiled 386 yards of offense (154 from Toyfoya).
Finishing was, as were untimely mistakes.
Waiakea engineered five drives in which it reached first-and-goal but produced just two scores. Atkinson-Sioloa’s pass breakup and a fumble, which led to a field goal, ended the first two opportunities.
“We have to punch those in,” Azevedo said. “Our play was spirited. It’s all good.”
Kealakehe led 17-2 at the half, and both offenses came out clicking in the third quarter, combining to score 30 points, though the Waveriders had an extra possession thanks to a heady call by Kekuaokalani.
Waiakea’s Layne DePeralta returned the opening kickoff 56 yards, and the Warriors took advantage of the short field when Nakamoto-Baltazar found Jason Kua-Cantan (six receptions) in the end zone on fourth-and-goal. Nakamoto-Baltazar followed that by tossing the two-point conversion pass to Ka’io Kon on a misdirection play.
The Waveriders next drive stalled, but Kean Schutte boomed a 46-yard field goal through the uprights before executing a textbook onsides kick that Kealakehe recovered and turned into Kahele’s 29-yard scoring run and a 26-10 lead.
“They had offensive momentum,” Kekuaokalani said, “and I needed offensive momentum myself.”
Their Waiakea bugaboo behind them, the Waveriders hope to continue the momentum for at least three more weeks.
Kealakehe 14 3 16 14 —47
Waiakea 0 2 14 6 —22
Keal: Kainoa Jones 27 pass from Jorden Himalaya (Kean Schutte kick)
Keal: Teyler Frasier 14 pass from Himalaya (Schutte kick)
Wai: Safety, intentional grounding in the end zone
Keal: Schutte 27 field goal
Waiakea: Jason Cua-Cantan 4 pass from Justin Nakamoto-Baltazar (Ka’io Kon pass from Nakamoto-Baltazar)
Kealakehe: Schutte 46 FG
Kealakehe: Elijah Kahele 29 run (pass failed)
Waiakea: Nakamoto-Baltazar 1 run (run failed)
Kealakehe: Himalaya 1 run (Schutte kick)
Kealakehe: Himalaya 4 run (Schutte kick)
Kealakehe: Kelii Pelekane 47 interception return (Schutte kick)
Waiakea: Xavier Toyfoya 75 reception from Nakamoto-Baltazar after Cua-Cantan 5 catch (pass failed)