Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024|
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Konawaena football’s magical season run ended Saturday night at Mililani High School on Oahu.
The Wildcats (11-2 ovr.) fell 53-28 to Waipahu in the HHSAA Division I Football Championship rematch from 2022, in which Kona won 38-28. The Marauders (8-4 ovr.) avenged the green and white by netting 582 cumulative yards of offense to the Wildcats’ 414, spearheaded by quarterback Elijah Mendoza — who had an impressive outing of 415 passing yards and four touchdown throws.
“We had a great season,” Kona coach Brad Uemoto told West Hawaii Today. “I told the boys that there was nothing to be ashamed of. We will not be defined by one night. Sometimes, you never get to achieve what you deserve. That’s life.”
Konawaena’s lone lead came late in the first quarter after Keawe Navas Loa scooped and scored a 65-yard fumble recovery. After trailing 18-7 at halftime, the Wildcats cut the defecit to 21-18 late in the third quarter following two more Navas Loa touchdowns — one rushing, one receiving.
But Waipahu upped its ante for the remaining 16:24 of regulation, as Kona would only score one last touchdown. Mendoza responded with three touchdown throws to Jayden Chanel, Eric Stephens and Faafetai Failauga. Aaron Dumaslan’s pick six and Failauga’s additional 32-yard rushing score late in the fourth put the icing on the cake for the Marauders. Waipahu tallied 145 scrimmage yards in the second half to the Wildcats’ 33.
Konawaena quarterback Keoki Alani finished with 254 passing yards and a touchdown to go along with three interceptions. Outside of Navas Loa’s three-touchdown act, receiver Abraham Ogata was Alani’s favorite weapon with six catches for 87 yards. The Wildcats committed five turnovers as a team.
Regardless of the outcome, Konawaena has much to be proud of. In the 2023 season, the Wildcats collected their third straight BIIF title and undefeated league record. Alani additionally made history by surpassing Timmy Chang in the state’s all-time passing touchdown record. The senior also broke Hawaii’s high school record of most passing scores in a single game.
Konawaena is prepared to lose some important players to graduation, but will still retain key pieces in 2024 such as receivers Zedekiah Anahu-Ambrosio, Austin Takaki and Ogata — along with defensive stalwarts like lineman Elias Malapit and defensive back Armenio Blanco.
“Our seniors leave this program as better men and a state title, and I am proud of them,” Uemoto added. “Our underclassmen have learned a lot on this journey and we will take it into the off season and continue to get better.”
Around the state
Kahuku upset No. 1 Miliani in a close 21-19 victory in the HHSAA Open Division Championship on Saturday night at the Clarence T.C. Ching Complex on Oahu. The Red Raiders collected their third straight state championship and finished the year 12-2. The Trojans concluded at 11-2.
Mililani took a 19-15 lead early in the fourth quarter once quarterback Kini McMillan connected with Davyn Joseph for an 89-yard touchdown pass, but Kahuku responded with just under three minutes remaining after Diezel Kamoku returned the Trojans’ punt for an 86-yard score.
Red Raiders quarterback Tuli Tagovailoa-Amosa had 132 passing yards and a touchdown, while McMillan finished the night with 264 yards and a score. McMillan additionally ran for 75 yards.
Over in Division II, Waimea repeated as champions that same day in a 31-28 win over Kamehameha Schools-Maui at Mililani High School. The Menehunes (4-5) took a 21-14 lead near the conclusion of the first half thanks to a Kameron Apilado 19-yard rushing score — and never looked back.
Waimea held onto the lead from there.
Kaili Arakaki was the Menehunes’ lead performer with 111 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground. On the Warriors’ (7-2) side, Zede Campbell rushed for 110.
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