KEAAU, Hawaii >> All it took was one win to get the Hilo Vikings rolling.
After losing in their first six appearances in the state tournament, the reigning Division I champions are back to defend their crown after clinching a spot in the final with a 35-24 win over Maui on Friday night in the semifinals of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA State Football Championships.
Junior Kyan Miyasato threw for 230 yards and three touchdowns and Kyler Aguiar and Guyson Ogata each scored twice for the Vikings (9-1), who have won three in a row in the state tournament since notching the BIIF’s first win in Division I in 18 years last season over this same Sabers team.
Hilo will meet Waipahu in the final on Nov. 24 at Aloha Stadium.
“Tonight was way too stressful,” Hilo coach Kaeo Drummondo said. “We take the ‘W’ how we get them. Tonight was really just an example of how our season has been. We’re so happy with the progression that these kids have made, but it really has been day in and day out a grind.”
Hilo (9-1) survived six turnovers, including four lost fumbles in the third quarter that allowed Maui (5-6) to get back into the game.
The Vikings had a chance to take a 35-10 lead in the third quarter when Ogata returned a punt for a touchdown, but it was called back by a penalty.
Maui junior Mone Tongi returned a fumble 57 yards for a score and followed Kevin Cacho’s fumble recovery on a punt with a 17-yard touchdown run to cut it to 28-24.
The Sabers turned the ball over three times in the fourth quarter and couldn’t cut through the final margin.
“Sadly a microcosm of our season,” interim Sabers coach James Kammerer said. “We kind of shot ourselves in the foot in that first half and they were able to get up by a couple of scores. We stuck with it and were able to get it to 28-24 and overall we’re building. We’re not where we want to be yet, but we’re young.”
Maui played in the state tournament in consecutive seasons for the first time, but failed to notch its first win in four tries.
An expected defensive struggle turned in the second quarter with both offenses scoring on big plays.
Trailing 14-3 after Ogata scored on a 2-yard run, Maui threw its first touchdown pass ever in the state tournament.
Junior Brex Delray, who booted a 32-yard field goal in the first quarter, threw a short pass to running back Naia Nakamoto, who took it 70 yards for a score to cut it to 14-10.
“I didn’t have the right check for them. We didn’t see that on film, that fast motion to the empty, and he got us,” Drummondo said. “You give the edge to (Nakamoto) and he will score on almost anybody in the state.”
Nakamoto, who set the MIL Division I record in rushing this season, was bottled up on the ground with 24 yards on 12 carries. He finished with 116 total yards from scrimmage.
Aguiar, who didn’t touch the ball once in the first half, had five catches for 60 yards on Hilo’s opening drive of the third quarter and scored on a 1-yard TD reception to give Hilo a 28-10 lead.
He added a 1-yard TD run in the fourth quarter after a roughing-the-kicker penalty on a field goal gave Hilo the ball first-and-goal.
“Corners were playing off, so (the coaching staff) was telling us to run screens and stuff,” Aguiar said.
Ogata led the Vikings with 79 yards receiving on three catches, including a 45-yard touchdown on a ball that was popped into the air before he caught it on the second attempt and ran it in for a 21-10 lead at the break.
“Half of my touchdowns are off bobbles or tips,” Ogata said. “I just stay focused and watch the ball and see where it goes and then I target it and get it.”
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