Not the same ‘old Keaau’: Cougars block last-second kick, survive turnovers to top Waiakea

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Keaau wide receiver Josiah Hoohuli races into the end zone for a touchdown Saturday against Waiakea.

  • KELSEY WALLING/Tribune-Herald Keaau quarterback Kaohu Kaluna threw three TD passes Saturday

  • KELSEY WALLING/Tribune-Herald Waiakea wide receiver Jai Miyamoto catches a pass Saturday against Keaau in the BIIF Division I season-opener.

Keaau had a whopping five turnovers while Waiakea had three giveaways but four harmful technical gaffes that cost the winless BIIF football team from two years ago its first victory.

The Cougars capitalized on four second-half gaffes to rally past the Warriors 20-17 in the BIIF season-opener on Saturday at Ken Yamase Memorial Stadium, blocking a last-second, game-tying field goal.

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Late in the fourth quarter, Waiakea looked to be in good shape but punted. However, the punt was way too low, hit the offensive line in the back, and Keaau recovered at the Warrior 14-yard line.

Four plays later, it was fourth-and-8 on the Waiakea 18, Keaau sophomore quarterback Kaohu Kaluna threw a scoring strike to a wide-open Masen Silva, who easily caught the rainbow on a busted coverage play.

Kaluna ran around right end, where there was no perimeter defenders in sight, for the two-point conversion and a 20-17 lead with 2:26 remaining.

On its ensuing possession, Waiakea had third-and-9 from its 35, and senior quarter back Reyn Segovia-Tanonaka broke loose for a 43-yard run. But a yellow flag came out for the Warriors’ third mental mistake and whipped out the big gain.

With six seconds left in the fourth quarter, Warrior kicker Alexander Tuson lined up for a 37-yard field goal for a potential tie. The attempt missed, but the Cougars were called for a penalty.

However, Tuson was injured on the play. Despite being closer with a backup kicker, it didn’t matter because Waiakea’s offensive line broke down, and Shaydin Meek-Canon-Ching blocked the kick to seal the victory and pin the fourth critical technical gaffe on the Warriors, who won the turnover battle, 5-3, but lost the mental/technical mistake part of the game, 4-0.

Keaau coach Ian Van Cleave immediately gave props to the Warriors, who went winless in 2019 and lost to Hilo, 104-0.

“I’m impressed. Waiakea looked good,” he said. “They’ve come a long way. People like to talk crap about these guys, that 104-0 game, and that’s not this team. It’s a good team. These guys battle hard. That’s my first thought about this game.

“On our side this is our first anything. We didn’t have a scrimmage or preseason, so I guess that explains a lot. There is a whole lot that needs to be cleaned up, turnovers, penalties, missed assignments, so much, a lot of mental mistakes.”

Kaluna showed off his arm talent, which Van Cleave earlier noted, going 12 of 23 for 180 yards with three touchdowns, despite two drops. The only negative is with arm talent and inexperience, Kaluna tried to force throws and had four interceptions.

The Cougars (1-0) ran more run-and-shoot/spread offense than Air Raid (four receivers), and junior Joshiah Hoohuli displayed his impressive speed and burned Waiakea’s secondary twice for a pair of explosive play (30 yards or more) touchdowns of 62 and 33 yards. He finished with four catches for 110 yards. Silva had three receptions for 110 yards, including one TD.

“The biggest key is it’s clear that we’re turning things around because in the past, we make that fumble on the kickoff and we go down 14-0 in the first quarter, and old Keaau just might be done,” Van Cleave said. “We stayed together, we fought together. The coaches are on Joshiah because they can see the talent he has, and it was great to see him get that.”

Kaluna has room to grow on his 6-foot, 155-pound frame, and he took advantage when the Warriors didn’t contain the perimeter and ran for 50 yards on 17 carries. Silva gained 49 yards on 15 carries. Keaau rushed for 100 yards on 37 carries.

In stark contrast, the Warriors (0-1) had more success on the ground than through the air and rushed for 153 yards on 18 attempt, an 8.5 average. Segovia-Tanonaka was more effective as a runner and rushed for 81 yards on 13 carries and two TDs. Keanu Tavares added 70 yards on 13 carries out of a spread offense formation.

Segovia-Tanonaka went 0 for 5 passing in the first half and finished 11 of 21 for 111 yards and two interceptions. John Torres, a senior like his QB and RB, was a favorite target and caught four passes for 59 yards.

“We never gave up, but the turnovers kind of killed us and a couple of long passes,” Waiakea coach Neil Azevedo said. “We were one field goal away from tying the game. Every game, we’re going to get better. I’m proud of them.”

On the opening kickoff, the Cougars fumbled, and Torres was in the right place at the right time and recovered at the Keaau 9. Four plays later, Segovia-Tanonaka scored on a 2-yard run.

In the first quarter, Waiakea junior defensive end Sylis Conley Ruth had two quarterback sacks and one QB pressure. His second QB sack set up Segovia-Tanonaka’s 67-yard touchdown run for a 14-0 lead.

The Cougars immediately answered in the second quarter when Kaluna rifled a 62-yard TD pass to Hoohuli, who easily beat 1-on-1 coverage.

Late in the second quarter, Kaluna threw a 33-yard scoring strike to Hoohuli, who burned the secondary again. The two-point attempt was no good, and Keaau trailed 14-12 at halftime.

In the third quarter, Tuson kicked a 27-yard field goal for a 17-12 lead with 9:50 left, but after Waiakea’s punting gaffe, Keaau coach Van Cleave made a gambler’s call.

With the ball at the Waiakea 18, he could have called for the field goal unit for a 35-yard field goal attempt. Instead, he let Kaluna throw the ball, and with Waiakea’s busted coverage, Silva caught an 18-yard TD pass.

Then ball security took a long coffee break in the fourth quarter. First, Waiakea linebacker Tevita Hala Latu had an interception. Then Keaau’s Bailey Gapusan had a pick one play later. Eight plays later, Waiakea corner Isaiah Kamoe snagged his second INT. Kaluna, who also plays safety, got a pick.

For those counting, that’s four interceptions in 12 minutes.

The Cougars eventually had the ball on the Waiakea 13 on a fourth-and-1 with 1:51 left. Kaluna ran the ball but got stuffed by a blue wall.

Eventually, the Warriors couldn’t convert on two field goal attempts to tie the game, the last attempt blocked by Meek-Canon-Ching.

After the game, Van Cleave learned one important lesson: Don’t trust weather reports. It rained in the morning but Waiakea’s Imu artificial turf was hot and dry. He didn’t bring his wide brim, sun hat either.

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Be forewarned, Warriors and their foes, alike, always drink lots of water because the Imu turns into an oven. A dozen Waiakea and Keaau players suffered cramps.

Van Cleave got a slight sunburn he didn’t want, but at least he and his team went home with a victory.

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