HHSAA Football
Kamehameha-Maui knocks off No. 14 Kaiser, will face No. 10 Kapaa in title game


Wed, Dec 22, 2021 @ Farrington [ 7:00 pm ]

Final 1 2 3 4 T
KSM(5-3-0) 7 14 20 748
KAIS(9-1-0) 0 3 0 2124
Easton Yoshino 313 yd 3 TD
McKay Pali 121 yd 1 TD
Kamakana Mahiko 167 yd 2 TD
Pookela Aiu 127 yd 1 TD

KALIHI — The Kamehameha-Maui football team has got some plans for next week. 

Quarterback Makana Kamaka-Brayce passed for 369 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Warriors to a 48-24 upset of previously-unbeaten Kaiser at Farrington's Edward ‘Skippa' Diaz Stadium at Kusunoki Field Wednesday night. 

The win puts Kamehameha-Maui (5-2) into next Thursday's title game of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Division II State Championships, where they will play No. 10 Kapaa (7-0), which routed Hawaii Prep in the other semifinal Wednesday by a score of 51-0. 

It was just the second state tournament win in program history and the first since 2005, when the Warriors beat Kauai in a quarterfinal-round game, 14-7, but lost to Radford in the semifinals the following week. 

"It means everything; a lot of us weren't even born yet," said Kamaka-Brayce, a 5-foot-11, 165-pound sophomore who recorded a season-high in passing yards on 20-of-29 passing without an interception. "Our team is super young — a lot of sophomores — so it means a lot being that team to bring it back. We had a lot of doubters, but I think we just came in and did what we needed to do."

Warriors' coach Ulima Afoa credited his players for believing in themselves and putting in the work to topple the second-seeded Cougars (9-1), whose average margin of victory entering Wednesday was nearly 25 points per game. 

"I think they worked hard for it. The opportunity came and our kids bought into the fact that, hey, they can get it done. They're not enamored by their competition; sometimes you can get enamored because you're an outer island team, so our kids bought into the fact that, ‘hey, we're gonna be good,' you know what I'm saying? So let's just go out there and show people that we can actually play football here on Maui," said Afoa, whose team extended its winning streak to four games. 

Kamehameha-Maui posted season-high marks in total offense (502) and passing yards (369). Both Pookela Aiu (eight receptions for 127 yards) and Kahoa Abreu (six for 109) caught a touchdown pass from Kamaka-Brayce in the first half. Hoohenomauloa Stone-Han hauled in a pair of scoring passes in the third quarter and finished with four catches for 98 yards. 

"We've been playing together for a while now — seven-on-seven and everything — and just getting reps with each other, (so) we just know where we are on the field," Kamaka-Brayce said. "I feel like our offense is very explosive once we get into a rhythm."

The Warriors also got 121 rushing yards and a touchdown on 23 carries from running back McKay Pali. They held possession for more than eight minutes longer than the Cougars did. 

While Kaiser was just 2 of 13 on third downs, Kamehameha-Maui was 9 of 14. 

"That was a big key to it," Afoa said. "Obviously, it all worked and (Kaiser) scored some late touchdowns there and again, that's a tribute to their receivers — because their receivers are good receivers — but it's just a mix of us doing well and scoring when our opportunities came and us being able to change things up for the quarterback so he didn't kind of get a bead on us and I think that that basically has a lot to do with it."

The quarterback Afoa referenced would be Kaiser junior Easton Yoshino, who finished with 313 yards and three touchdowns through the air, but was just 14-of-35 passing. He was intercepted twice, including a 52-yard pick-six by defensive lineman Kale Spencer. 

"It just floated in the air off the hand of (the Kaiser receiver) and it was just a blessing it went right into my hands," Spencer recalled. 

The interception return was part of a 20-point third quarter for the Warriors, who took their largest lead at 41-3 on a 64-yard TD pass from Kamaka-Brayce to Stone-Han on the final play before the start of the fourth quarter. 

"I think we all just worked together, we trusted each other and we executed," said Spencer, who posted eight tackles, including four for losses. 

All three of Yoshino's TD passes came in the fourth quarter, but it was too little, too late for the Cougars, who finished with 428 yards of total offense. 

Afoa utilized a two-man defensive line early on and even dropped all eleven defenders back to defend the pass on at least one occasion. 

"It's just a matter of changing things up, making it difficult for (Yoshino) to find windows to throw the ball into, but again, where they make their money is throwing it deep," Afoa said. 

Kamakana Mahiko caught nine passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns and Justin Kanekoa recorded two grabs for 93 yards and a score in the loss. 

Kaiser had held opponents to fewer than 14 points and 244 yards per game prior to Wednesday. 

Hopo Aholelei notched six tackles for loss and eight total tackles to lead the Cougars defensively. 

The Warriors will now turn their sights onto Kapaa, which churned out 251 rushing yards against HPA in their semifinal Wednesday afternoon. 

"We gotta fill gaps with them," Spencer forecasted. "They're big, they're strong, they're kind of like a Lahainaluna type, but I think that we just gotta fill the gaps and stop the run."

Kickoff between Kamehameha-Maui and Kapaa next Thursday is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Farrington. Neither team has won a state football championship. 

Reach Kalani Takase at [email protected].

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