Lesser teams would have folded. Not Waipahu.
The 10th-ranked Marauders roared back from a 12-point deficit to knock off No. 7 ‘Iolani in Friday night’s Division I semifinals of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Football State Championships. They did it with a bruising running game and a blanket defense in front of their home fans at Masa Yonamine Athletic Complex.
The win gives Waipahu a chance to win its first state title. The Marauders (9-4) play defending champion Hilo in two weeks for that honor.
Halftime adjustments worked wonders, according to Waipahu coach Bryson Carvalho, who said he asked the players which plays were working in the first half.
“They chose a few and we went with those, and we noticed that for the first time, ‘Iolani’s defense was a little uneasy,” he said.
In a nutshell, the selected second-half plays mostly meant Alfred Failauga up the middle. Failauga did not let his team down and kept on chugging, and he wound up with 162 rushing yards after being boxed in during the first half.
Trailing 19-7, his running led to quarterback Cody Marques’ 1-yard sneak to make it 19-14. Later in the third quarter, Failauga followed up gains of 13 and 14 yards with a 16-yard touchdown run to put Waipahu in the lead. They failed on the 2-point rush, but were still up 20-19.
“The longer the game goes on and the more carries he gets, the stronger he gets,” ‘Iolani coach Wendell Look said. “That’s what playmakers do. He put them on his shoulders and carried them.”
Carvalho said, “We were going to run Al until we couldn’t run him no more.”
Just one point behind, ‘Iolani drove for a winning field-goal attempt early in the fourth, but Mika Makekau’s 38-yard kick was blocked by the Marauders’ Amo Montero.
After that, it was extremely difficult for the Raiders to move in the fourth quarter, due to an intense rush led by Montero and Kealii Barrett and the opportunistic defense of safety Deacon Kapea, whose third of three interceptions thwarted ‘Iolani’s second-to-last possession.
On their final time with the ball, Raiders quarterback Jonah Chong had no open receivers and tried to scramble, but to no avail.
“This is such a great a accomplishment,” said Waipahu’s Barrett, who was overcome with emotion and some tears. “We’re out here making history. This is a beautiful moment in history. I just love this feeling.
“We’ve never won a state championship and we still have that opportunity. We had the fire, coming together as one team. We didn’t want to hang up our pads on Monday. We played our hearts out 100 percent.”
After taking an early 7-0 lead, ‘Iolani (8-3) took control and went ahead 19-7 in the second quarter on field goals of 22 and 35 by Makekau, a 2-yard TD run by Kaua Nishigaya and a 19-yard Chong to Nishigaya TD pass.
But the Raiders couldn’t sustain the momentum or the lead.
“They wanted it more,” said ‘Iolani receiver Carter Kamana, who had nine catches for 90 yards. “Two great teams making it this far. What it means is they proved they just wanted it. They had that hunger to come back at us after we beat them (55-14 at ‘Iolani on Aug. 11).”
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