HHSAA Football
Kapaa steamrolls Kamehameha-Maui to win first-ever D2 state title


Thu, Dec 30, 2021 @ Farrington [ 7:00 pm ]

Final 1 2 3 4 T
KSM(5-3-0) 0 0 7 07
KAPA(8-0-0) 14 24 16 761

KALIHI—When it rains, it pours.

Led by Solomone Malafu and stingy defense, No. 10 Kapaa scored early and often to overwhelm No. 14 Kamehameha-Maui, 61-7, to win their first-ever First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Division II Football State Championship at Farrington's Edward ‘Skippa' Diaz Stadium at Kusunoki Field on a soggy Thursday night.

Kapaa came in second place in 2015, 2016, 2018, and 2019 and got over the hump to be the first Kauai Interscholastic Federation team to win it all.

"It feels incredible. Not just Kapaa but I was coaching at Kauai High so that was two or three times so I've been there seven times. It's the best feeling in the world in this moment," Kapaa coach Mike Tresler said.

"It feels great. Hats off to Kamehameha, they're a great team," Kapaa quarterback Kapono Na-o added. "I'm really grateful, especially all the work we put in. We put in a lot of work and we earned this."

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Malafu rushed for 152 yards on four attempts, four touchdowns and ran in six two-point conversions. The two-way warrior also added five solo tackles, three went for losses and had an interception on defense to cap an unbeaten season for the Warriors (8-0 overall) from the Garden Island.

"I can't put it into words. Bringing this home means a lot. We made our parents, school, community, even the island itself because I know they're there to support us. I'm thankful for everyone and everything," Malafu said.

Kapaa piled up 553 yards of total offense, 477 coming on the ground on 50 attempts. 21 of their 25 first downs were rushing.

"We ran the ball well. That early success and play from Solomone and the blocking really charged everyone up including our defense and special teams. If we can run the ball with our big guys, control the line of scrimmage, protect the ball, that was our game plan. They did fabulous with it," Tresler said.

"That was the thing we had to contend with, their size," KS-Maui coach Ulima Afoa said.

Kapaa came off a 51-0 win over Hawaii Prep the previous week and outscored their opponents in the state tournament, 112-7. The Warriors' defense registered 12 tackle for losses and held KS-Maui (5-3 overall) to 164 yards of total offense after putting up 502 yards of net offense in their 48-24 win over Kaiser.

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"The defense were amazing, the defensive line put pressure on the quarterback and our CBs locked up and did an amazing job," Na-o said.

"I think we have the best defense in the state. We had four shutouts all season. I can't tell you how our coaching staff how they prepare the kids and the kids are committed to playing the schemes we have. I'm not that surprised what they did to Kaiser. They're physical and well-coached and have good athletes," Tresler said.

Malafu took the direct snap and was just trying to give the offense some breathing room away from their own end zone, but that run resulted in a 98-yard touchdown.

"I honestly didn't know I would make it that far. I was trying to gain the yards and run as fast as I could," Malafu said of his state record run.

Kapono Na-o rushed for 99 yards on 14 attempts and capped a seven play, 70-yard drive with a 6-yard rushing touchdown and Malafu added a two-point run to make it 14-0.

To open the second quarter, Keegan Gantala mishandled the punt and Jericho Castro forced it out and Keanu Ebesu recovered it for Kapaa at the KS-Maui 23. Two plays later Malafu ran it in for a 10-yard touchdown and his run put Kapaa up, 22-0.

"I give thanks to them, because without them I wouldn't be able to make the runs that I made and touchdowns that I scored. They put in a lot of work at practice, we're always on them and they execute every play," Malafu said.

Na-o and Kaikea Tandal traded rushing attempts on a drive set up by Malafu's interception. Tandal was the third leading rusher and finished with nine carries for 89 yards and scored on an 11-yard run.

"The o-line balled out. They carried us on their back," Na-o said.

Connor Payomo gave Kapaa a new set of downs after getting a first down on a 4th-and-2 on a fake punt. Na-o went to the air for a 19-yard completion to Poke Tafea and a 40-yard completion to Castro to set up a 1-yard score from Malafu to make it 38-0 that held up until halftime.

KS-Maui's six first half offensive drives resulted in five punts and an interception and had 55 yards of total offense.

Na-o finished with 76 yards on 3-of-4 passing and his only touchdown went to Nakoa Kimi from 17 yards out and another run from Malafu put Kapaa up, 46-0 to open the third quarter.

"It felt good," Na-o said, despite throwing in the elements. "Knowing that last game I went 0 for 3 in passes."

Faced with a fourth-and-1 from their own 44, Pookela Aiu completed an 18-yard pass to Kainoa Monkres for a fresh set of downs, but on the next play a bad snap sent KS-Maui backwards.

Ebesu drilled Aiu and was flagged for hitting a defenseless receiver and was ejected from the game. McKay Pali rushed for a 14-yard gain, his longest run of the night and Makana Kamaka-Brayce added two more yards before leaving the game momentarily due to injury at the 3:27 mark in the third quarter.

Aiu (2-for-2, 38 yards) came in to throw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Gantala for the Warriors' only score of the night.

Kamaka-Brayce finished the game with 96 yards on 7-of-26 passing and was picked off twice.

"We had good schemes all year. We knew they wanted to throw the ball but they establish that off their run. We wanted to shut them down to make them one dimensional and manage that passing game," Tresler said.

"We can't make excuses. There are no excuses. They did a better job than we did tonight," Afoa said.

Tandal accounted for 49 yards on a 65-yard scoring drive that resulted in Tafea's 16-yard run.

After KS-Maui turned it over on downs, Kapaa scored their final points on a 43-yard run from Malafu to finish a seven play, 69-yard drive.

Bruno Likio had three tackle-for-losses and Connor Kitamura added a pair of tackle-for-losses. Keoki Ibaan had the other interception and Tafea had the game's lone sack for Kapaa's defense.

Monkres led the way with nine tackles, Kale Spencer had six tackles and a forced fumble. Kahoa Abreu led all receivers with four catches for 78 yards in the loss.

KS-Maui made its first-ever state title game appearance in school history.

"We can't take away the good we did this year and it's something we can build on," Afoa said.

Reach Brandon Ching at [email protected].

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