Wednesday, Feb. 08, 2023|
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HONOLULU – Hawaii Preparatory Academy ran into a brick wall otherwise known as the Kapaa Warriors on Wednesday.
In the Division II semifinals of the HHSAA state football championships, the Warriors rolled to a 51-0 victory at Farrington’s Skippa Diaz Stadium on Oahu. After some lean seasons, it was an accomplishment just getting to the game for Hawaii Prep (7-1), which came as the previously undefeated BIIF D-II champion. It was Ka Makani’s first appearance at states since 2009.
“I told our guys after the game that losing sucks,” HPA head coach Kaluka Maiava said. “We’re not here to lose. But at the same time, they need to be very proud of what we’ve accomplished as a team. They went from no wins, to almost a championship (in 2019) to undefeated BIIF champs.”
The Warriors (7-0), who weighed in quite a bit heavier than HPA, are the division’s top seeds, having won the Kauai Interscholastic Federation title, and they move on to the championship game Dec. 30 against the winner of Wednesday’s nightcap at Farrington between Kaiser (9-0) and Kamehameha-Maui (4-2), who played in the second semifinal Wednesday night.
Unlike HPA – which managed just 66 yards of offense on 51 plays – Kapaa makes regular appearances at the state tournament. The Warriors have never won it all, but finished as runner-up in 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019.
After taking a 22-0 halftime lead, Kapaa continued its roll in the second half.
Three Warriors running backs scored rushing touchdowns in the first half, including two from the big and bruising type. Poki Tafea (6 feet, 235 pounds) busted through for an 11-yard TD, and Solomone Malafu (6-1, 225) rumbled in for a 22-yard TD. In addition, Kian Rapozo scored from 2 yards out.
Tain Lawson and Braeden Samura had big-time defensive performances for HPA. Lawson finished with 11 tackles, and Samura added four, including two for losses, and in one series had a sack and a fumble recovery.
“It was a great season,” said Lawson, who also had five catches for 17 yards on offense. “It’s so good to come out here with this great group of guys. We did real good. HPA has been losing for a long time, so to come back and win a BIIF championship, it meant a lot”
An example of Ka Makani’s no-quit attitude came when Kapaa’s Kala Velasco intercepted a pass and looked like he was going to return it for a TD late in the game. But after gaining 72 yards, Velasco was caught from behind and tackled by Lawson.
“To have that grit and to let our young guys learn from that and take that as the new norm, the future is ridiculously bright,” Maiava said.
Late in the first half, while trailing by 14, Maiava’s implored his troops, “We need points before halftime.”
They did not get there. With the wind, HPA quarterback Tre Walker drove his teammates to the Kapaa 47. The march, however, stalled and a bad punt snap allowed the Warriors to take over at the HPA 22.
That’s when, on the next play, Malafu scored his touchdown and added a 2-point conversion run with 1:12 left before the halftime break, making the HPA deficit a back-breaking 22-0.
Early in the third, Connor Kitamura helped Kapaa get to 30-0 by recovering a blocked punt in the end zone and Sepuloni Tafea added a 2-point conversion run, pretty much putting the game out of reach for Hawaii Prep.
“Playing in the state tournament is a dream come true,” Samura said. “Growing up in a small town, we don’t really get to experience this type of thing, but if you put everything together and do the right thing, it happens.”
In HPA’s last state tournament appearance in 2009, Ka Makani defeated Moanalua 17-14 in the first round and then lost to Kauai 28-14 in the semifinals.
Hawaii Prep 0 0 0 0 – 0
Kapaa 14 8 15 14 – 51
Kapaa – Rapozo 2 run (Valasco kick)
Kapaa – Tafea 11 run (Valasco kick)
Kapaa – Malafu 22 run (Malafu rush)
Kapaa – Kitamura recovered blocked punt (Tafea rush)
Kapaa – Na-O 4 run (Valasco kick)
Kapaa – Pimental 15 run (Valasco kick)
Kapaa – Tafea 7 pass from Kimi (Valasco kick)
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