Kamehameha Maui falls to Damien

PUKALANI – The Cody Nakamura era has begun for the Kamehameha Schools Maui football team, and despite the Warriors’ 29-21 loss to Damien on Saturday night at Kanaiaupuni Stadium, the first-year coach was pleased with his team’s effort.

“We’re brand-new coaches so we don’t know much about these players as far as the game goes,” Nakamura said. “We wanted to see heart, we wanted to see leadership, and we saw that today.”

The Warriors’ Chase Newton threw for 153 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for 58 yards and a score. Keoni Keanini had five catches for 55 yards, including a 30-yard touchdown grab in the final seconds of the game.

Kamehameha attempted an onside kick after Keanini’s score, but Damien recovered and then took a knee to finish off the win.

“We had our ups and downs like every team does, but we pulled together and found a way to work and finish,” Newton said.

Damien was carried by the arm of quarterback Syles Choy, who threw for 250 yards and three touchdowns. On the third play of the game, he connected with Kealii Kaanapu on a 66-yard score.

The Warriors would stall on their next two possessions, but caught a break when Choy threw a screen pass that was recovered as a fumble on the Monarchs’ 30-yard line.

The Warriors capitalized on the mistake with a five-play drive ending in a 10-yard touchdown pass from Newton to Erin Lindsey that tied the score at 7-7.

Damien’s Leeland Lauti caught a 20-yard touchdown pass on the drive that followed, and the Interscholastic League of Honolulu team never trailed again. A?Kamehameha fumble set up Nicolas Angoco’s 30-yard field goal for a 16-7 lead as time ran out in the first half.

The Warriors twice had drives halted by interceptions in the second half – the first, on the opening series of the third quarter, stopped a march that had reached the Monarchs’ 18-yard line.

Damien could not turn the turnovers into points, but added two more field goals and a touchdown in the final quarter.

“First game is always nervous,” Newton said. “That’s one of the great leagues on Oahu and now we know what we need to work on and can get better off of this.”

Kamehameha scored a pair of touchdowns with less than a minute left in the game. The first was set up by a 60-yard kickoff return from Chase Alexander – a four-play drive followed, with Newton’s 5-yard run making the score 29-14.

The Warriors then recovered an onside kick with 16 seconds left. After an incompletion, Keanini scored his touchdown.

“First game, real tough opponent,” Nakamura said. “It was tough getting off the rust, I guess, for the first three quarters, but we kind of turned it on in the last.

“We always coach our kids to never give up. I don’t care if the score is 100 to zero, so I’m really proud of that fact.”

Monarchs coach Eddie Klaneski was pleased to see his team hang on.

“We kind of made a little mistakes at the end, we didn’t finish the way we wanted to but we’re excited to come away with the win,” he said.

“We came into this game blind, but it’s fun to play somebody we don’t know. This is a nice venue here at Kamehameha so we’ve had a lot of fun and they’ve really taken care of us.”

* Chris Sugidono is at csugidono@mauinews.com