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Prep Football Preview Special
Prep Football Preview
Game of the Week
Kalani Takase | ScoringLiveNovember 20, 2022, 12:20am
Sat, Nov 19, 2022 @ Kekaulike [ 7:00 pm ]
PUKALANI, Maui — Defense was the name of the game in Upcountry Maui Saturday night.
Led by a staunch defensive effort, unranked King Kekaulike thwarted No. 15 Nanakuli, 20-0, in the semifinals of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Division II Football State Championships before a home crowd of about 1,600 fans at Na Alii's home stadium.
King Kekaulike, the top seed in the six-team bracket, was playing in its first state tournament game in 16 years, since it became the first Neighbor Island team to win a state football crown in D2 in 2006. Na Alii improved to 5-6 on the year and will face third-seeded Waimea in next Saturday's state final at Mililani's John Kauinana Stadium.
"Actually, I still feel in shock with where we are right now, but our plans is going to the state (title) game and we worked hard and we're there, we're going, so that was in our plan and we'll see what happens next week," Na Alii coach Tyson Valle said.
It was King Kekaulike's defense that set the tone against the Golden Hawks, who were riding a 10-game win streak entering the weekend. It was just the second time that Nanakuli was shut out this season; it opened the season, ironically enough, with a 16-0 loss to Maui High at War Memorial Stadium back on Aug. 12.
Na Alii had not shut out an opponent this year prior to Saturday's result.
"This feels very awesome because we worked our butt off ever since before the season started and we put all our heart out into this season because we knew our team had the talent to make it this far and, to be honest, I believe that we can win it," said senior defensive lineman Devin Roberts, who tallied three tackles, including two for losses, one sack and one pass break-up in the win.
Roberts also forced and recovered a fumble that halted Nanakuli's opening possession of the second half.
"It feels good to be here. Our coaches believed in us and we just played our heart out," he said.
Senior Jacob Poouahi recorded a game-high 9 1/2 tackles, including one stop behind the line of scrimmage. Poouahi made several big hits and key stops from his linebacker position. The King Kekaulike defense clamped down on Nanakuli's offense, which finished with 116 yards of total offense.
The Golden Hawks entered the game averaging better than 365 yards and 38 points per game.
"I thought our defense was spot on. We had some mistakes here and there, but for the most part, I mean, we did what we said we were gonna do: we were gonna focus on their heavy backs and they did the job tonight, I cannot ask for anything more," Valle said. "This defense did a great job and this coaching staff did a great job."
Nanakuli did not pick up a first down until early in the third quarter. It had only 16 net yards by halftime.
The Golden Hawks finished 0 for 9 on third downs. They managed only eight first downs on the night.
Poouahi disclosed that the King Kekaulike defenders were keying in on Nanakuli's pair of running backs in 6-foot-3, 240-pound Nathan Pele Tukumoeatu and 6-foot-1, 210-pound Christian Asinsin.
"Honestly, I just kept reading the plays," Poouahi said. "I seen the linemen just clear it and I just plugged that hole and we always looked where (Pele-Tukumoeatu) and (Asinsin) were, that was our two main guys that we keyed on that coach said. We prepared for them, I guess you could say."
Na Alii opened the scoring on Ahe Sumibcay's 71-yard touchdown run with three minutes and 58 seconds left in the first quarter. On the scoring play, quarterback Kalelepono Wong took the snap from under center, handed off to Tysin Zackious, who then handed off to a crossing Sumibcay on the misdirection play. The extra point was no good, however.
A few minutes into the second quarter, King Kekaulike ran the same play on fourth-and-4 and Sumibcay picked up eight yards to extend the drive. Two plays later, Kalani Puu went untouched into the end zone from four yards out to double-up the Na Alii lead.
Following a Nanakuli three-and-out, King Kekaulike put together a nine-play, 54-yard drive that included a pair of third-down conversions — including a 34-yard pass from Wong to Kamakalei Stone to move the chains on third-and-21 — and was capped by a 1-yard Zackious TD run. Puu ran in the ensuing two-point conversion to make it a 20-0 advantage.
King Kekaulike's defense forced two punts, one turnover on downs and had one takeaway (on Richards' fumble recovery) after halftime.
"Nanakuli is a tough team. They come out with a lot of stuff and we didn't know what we were gonna see tonight, but we prepared for their best plays and we got ready for this game," Valle said.
The OIA-champion Golden Hawks were coming off of a 38-6 win at home over PAC-5 in last week's first round. They end their season with a 10-2 record and one win shy of their first appearance in a state championship game.
"I mean, they came out tough," Nanakuli coach Kili Watson said of Na Alii.
"We got dealt this hand, but we just gotta deal with it. I'm extremely proud of my team; they left everything on the field. They came a long way, they grew as a team, grew as a family, overcame a lot of obstacles and I'm just proud of what we've done this season. We can't let this game dictate and represent our season, (because) we did a hell of a job this season," Watson added.
King Kekaulike had a bye last week, which played to its benefit, as Valle noted.
"I think it actually helped us to heal up, get better and get ready for this game," he said.
Both Roberts and Poouahi were ecstatic with the support they received from their fans Saturday night.
"It felt awesome to play in front of this crowd and to make them happy," Roberts said.
Poouahi added, "I was stoked. I've never seen our crowd this big and I'm just glad this community came out to support us. Our team worked so hard to get where we are, you know? Sixteen years in the making, we finally did it and I believe we can win it."
Kickoff between Na Alii and the Menehunes is scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday
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