PUKALANI - It had been rendered meaningless in the Maui Interscholastic League's first-round Division II football title race a night before, but Kamehameha Schools Maui's 11-8 victory over Upcountry rival King Kekaulike carried plenty of significance for the victors.
The Warriors had been outscored 46-7 in their first two MIL games, and a packed house was on hand to watch at Kanaiaupuni Stadium on Saturday night.
They saw a defensive struggle - the only scoring in the second half was a 34-yard field goal by Kamehameha's Colton Cabanas with 7 minutes, 46 seconds left.
Taylor Kaaukai of Kamehameha Schools Maui tries to bring down King Kekaulike’s Ryley Widell during the first half of the Warriors’ 11-8 victory over Na Alii in a Maui Interscholastic League Division II game Saturday at Kanaiaupuni Stadium.
BEN JUAN photo
King Kekaulike’s Keegan Gregg heads upfield with teammate Joshua Kahaikupuna as Kamehameha Maui’s Erin Lindsey pursues on Saturday.
BEN JUAN photo
Colton Cabanas of Kamehameha Maui fields a kickoff.
BEN JUAN photo
"It wasn't pretty but we had two good drives, we had two good long scoring drives," said Warriors coach Kevin O'Brien. "So, again, we had flashes of brilliance, but we are so inconsistent. Our defense played really well and my hat's off to Kekaulike. Those guys really improved in the last two weeks."
Like Kamehameha (1-2), King Kekaulike came into the game with little offense to show for the season. Na Alii (0-2) were shut out 29-0 by Lahainaluna before having last week off.
King Kekaulike got its points on Saturday via a safety and a 79-yard return for a touchdown by Keegan Gregg on the ensuing free kick.
The Warriors finished the night with 143 yards of offense, while Na Alii had 206.
"It was a little better than last time, each game we are improving," said first-year King Kekaulike coach Clarence Rivers. "We just have to find a way to make it complete. We just have to find a way. I thought we were scrappy, I thought we had the momentum, but we lost it a little bit, so we just have to learn how to keep it.
"The defense played well. We just have to get it going on offense, they have got to do their part."
Cabanas' field goal came at the end of a 34-yard, five-play drive that was basically due to a single throw. Kalai Yap found Chase Newton on a 32-yard pass - the first completion of the night for the Warriors - that moved the ball to Na Alii's 13-yard line with just over eight minutes to play.
Cabanas nailed the game-winner three plays later.
Both teams are looking to the second round of MIL play for their postseason hopes - five-time defending D-II league champion Lahainaluna secured the first round title with a 32-0 win over Baldwin on Friday.
"I'm happy for my kids, I'm happy for all the coaches," O'Brien said. "It was difficult and we just have to keep working. We are obviously a work in progress."
King Kekaulike's Aaron Alama, Ramsey Crenshaw and Onosai Emelio caught Yap for a sack in the end zone with 2:12 left in the first quarter, and Gregg widened the lead with his zigzagging, across-the-field return.
Na Alii had the ball back in Warriors' territory after a trade of punts, and Gregg hauled in a 29-yard pass that would have put the ball on the Kamehameha 13, but it was wiped out by a holding penalty.
King Kekaulike was then forced to punt and Yap took over, leading a 66-yard, five-play scoring drive with his elusiveness in the pocket. He started the possession with scrambles of 31, 19 and 14 yards to put the ball on the King Kekaulike 2.
Taylor Kaaukai scored two plays later from the 1 and then caught Yap's conversion pass with 7:05 to go in the half.
King Kekaulike had a 41-yard touchdown pass from Ryley Widell to Charles Apuna called back by a penalty before a punt to the 3-yard line set up the safety.
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com
King Kekaulike ............. 8 ..... 0 ..... 0 ...... 0-8
Kamehameha Maui ..... 0 ..... 8 ..... 0 ..... 3-11
KK-Kalai Yap sacked in end zone, 2:12.
KK-Keegan Gregg 79 kickoff return (run failed), 1:57.
KSM-Taylor Kaaukai 1 run (Kaaukai pass from Yap), 7:05.
KSM-FG Colton Cabanas 34, 7:46.
Junior varsity-King Kekaulike 19, Kamehameha Maui 14.
* * *
LAHAINALUNA 32, BALDWIN 0
Lahainaluna ..... 12 ..... 0 ..... 0 ..... 20-32
Baldwin .............. 0 ..... 0 ..... 0 ......... 0-0
LL-Kiko Kohler-Fonohema 64 run (run failed), 3:52.
LL-Tytus Lucas 3 run (pass failed), 2:48.
LL-Jared Rocha-Isalas 1 run (Christian Cardenas-Ayala kick), 4:59.
LL-Semisi Filikitonga 92 run (kick failed), 2:46.
LL-Jeffrey Ancog 25 interception return (Cardenas-Ayala kick), 2:38.
RUSHING-LL, Kohler-Fonohema 15-144, Filikitonga 4-93, Lucas 5-18, Rocha-Isalas 9-16, John Lacuesta 2-9, Mark Alamon 2-7, Christian Whitehead 2-7; B, Kaipo Lapenia-Lau 22-90, Dusty Flores 18-82, Ryan Graham 2-0, Kawela Kaeo-Mata 1-(minus 13), team 3-(minus 62).
PASSING-LL, Kohler-Fonohema 4-18-1-27; B, Graham 4-19-2-27.
RECEIVING-LL, Rocha-Isalas 3-19, Filikitonga 1-8; B, Larry Gines 2-1, Ryan Garces 1-23, Zacharia Coloma-Mariano 1-3.
MISSED FIELD GOALS-LL, Cardenas-Ayala 50 (SH); B, Coloma-Mariano 45 (SH).
Baldwin ............... 1 ..... 1 ....... .500 ..... 25 ..... 37
Maui High ........... 1 ..... 1 ....... .500 ..... 15 ..... 32
x-Lahainaluna ..... 3 ..... 0 ..... 1.000 ..... 97 ....... 0
KS Maui .............. 1 ..... 2 ....... .333 ..... 18 ..... 54
King Kekaulike .... 0 ..... 2 ....... .000 ....... 8 ..... 40
Lahainaluna 32, Baldwin 0
Kamehameha Maui 11, King Kekaulike 8
Friday, Sept. 14
Maui High at King Kekaulike, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 15
Baldwin at Kamehameha Maui, 7 p.m.
x-clinched first-round championship