HONOLULU — The emotional roller-coaster followed a storybook script all the way to the finish, and Keanu Keolanui made Hilo High’s dream season come true with a 55-yard game-winning field goal with no time left on the clock.
Keolanui’s kick tied the longest in state history as the Vikings edged Iolani 20-17 in the HHSAA Division I championship on Friday at Aloha Stadium, completing an unbeaten season for the Vikings (14-0).
“That was my longest kick,” he said. “I kicked one 57 yards in practice, but it barely made it. When I kick, I don’t look at the number. I look at the goal posts, wait for the snap, take my time and hit it as hard as I could.”
After a punt, the Vikings took over at the Raiders 38 with eight seconds left. Two plays later, Keolanui blasted his field goal to help Hilo capture its second state title; the first was in 2017.
Of course, what’s a happily ever ending for the 17 senior starters on offense and defense (Kilohana Haasenritter and Elijah Apao go both ways) without a little adversity?
In the fourth quarter, Iolani had a 70-yard punt that pinned Hilo at its 17-yard line. Two plays later, Kyan Miyasato had time in the pocket and rifled a 78-scoring strike to Guyson Ogata to tie it 17-17. The two-play drive covered 83 yards and took just 26 seconds, an example of Hilo’s quick-strike, big-play ability.
“I’m speechless,” Ogata said. “That field goal, I knew he was going to make it. This feels great to end your senior year as champions.”
Hilo coach Kaeo Drummondo was speechless as well, having a hard time digesting his team’s magical finish.
“I’m happy, and it feels like a dream,” he said. “I don’t want to wake up from the way this thing ended.”
On Iolani’s ensuing possession, an unsportsmanlike penalty and facemask infraction pushed the ball to Hilo’s 28 with 6:29 left. The Raiders later missed a 45-yard field goal attempt. That could have swung the momentum back to the ILH champions.
The Vikings took over at their 20 with under two minutes and eventually drove down to the Iolani 9 with 37 seconds left. They faced a fourth-and-2 and called timeout. They came out and looked like they were going for it.
Iolani was called for an encouragement penalty, its first yellow flag of the game and gave Hilo new life and a chance for a winning play.
However, Meki Pei forced a fumble, but the Raiders later punted to set up Hilo’s winning drive.
Hilo shut out Iolani’s offense in the second half, after trailing 17-3 at halftime. The Vikings piled up 388 yards of offense; the Raiders (10-4) had 153 yards of offense.
The Viking secondary held quarterback Jonah Chong to 13 of 30 passing for 118 yards and the ground game to 35 yards on 21 carries.
Miyasato was 17 of 30 for 289 yards with a touchdown and no turnovers. Lyle Silva rushed for 112 years on 25 carries, and Ogata had five catches for 146 yards, Haasenritter six for 73 yards, and Kaimi Tiogangco five for 69 yards.
Haasenritter and Apao spent a lot of time running, covering Iolani’s receivers and running routes. One breakdown could have allowed Iolani to complete a deep ball. It never happened.
“All that hard training paid off,” Haasenritter said. “My mindset was to stay strong and stay healthy. All the seniors played their hearts out.”
Iolani capitalized on great field position to take a 10-0 lead in the first quarter.
After a short punt, the Raiders started on Hilo’s 30-yard line, and three players later Wailoa Manuel kicked a 45-yard field goal.
Two possessions later, Iolani started at the 50 and took nine plays and 3:22 to score when Chong rushed from two yards out for a 10-0 lead.
Chong got rid off the ball quickly before Hilo’s pass rush could collapse on him. Hilo’s secondary blanketed the Raider receivers on deep routes, so Chong often threw short and quick passes. Still, the Vikings recorded three sacks (Kainalu Lewis, Joshua Niro, and Silva).
Hilo got on the scoreboard in the second quarter when Keolanui kicked a 47-yard field goal after a 13-play, 59-yard drive that consumed 6:07. The downside was a dropped pass on a slant route that would have been an easy touchdown.
Right before halftime, Meki Pei scored on a 94-yard punt return with no time on the clock. The Raiders built a black-and-white wall down the left sideline for Pei to run free and stake Iolani to a 17-3 halftime lead.
The first half didn’t carry much offensive fireworks, other than Pei’s long scoring punt return.
The Raiders had 108 total yards, one more than the Vikings, who had just three first downs. Iolani had 17 first downs.
At the start of the third quarter the wind picked up, and Hilo’s aggression intensified, too.
Ogata returned the kickoff to the 44 and two plays, later the ball was on Iolani’s 30-yard line. The drive later stalled when Miyasato was called for intentional grounding, a penalty and loss of downs. At the Iolani 36, Joshua Miyazawa sacked Miyasato on third-and-18.
Hilo’s Kalen White received a fumble on Iolani’s ensuring series, and the Viks marched on a five-play, 47-yard drive, capped by Haasenritter’s 6-yard scoring run from the wildcats to cut the lead to 17-10.
Tiogangco set up the touchdown with a 29-yard reception that landed the ball on Iolani’s 6-yard line.
Hilo’s playmakers were all over the field on defense. White had seven tackles, one forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. Kainalu Lewis had 6.5 tackles, one tackle for loss and a forced fumble. Layne Deperalta and Haasenritter each had two pass breakups.
Miyasato was sacked five times. But the bigger Vikings eventually wore down the Raider pass rushers. And when Miyasato had time, he made his completions count.
After the postgame talk, he emerged from the locker room in a state of disbelief.
“It was a most unbelievable win,” he said, still floating on a cloud.
Iolani 10 7 0 0 — 17
Hilo 0 3 7 7 — 20
Iolani — Wailoa Manuel 45 FG, 6:11
Iolani — Jonah Chong 2 run (Manuel kick), :41
Hilo — Keanu Keolanui 47 FG, 5:30
Iolani —Meki Pei 94 punt return (Manuel kick), 0:00
Hilo — Kilohana Haasenritter 6 run (Keolanui kick), 1:40
Hilo — Guyson Ogata 78 pass from Kyan Miyasato (Keolanui kick), 7:10
Hilo — Keolanui 55 FG, 0:00.