HHSAA Football
Waimea grinds out shutout win over Honokaa to reach first-ever state final


Sat, Nov 19, 2022 @ Honokaa [ 7:00 pm ]

Final 1 2 3 4 T
Waimea (9-2-0) 7 0 3 717
Honokaa (10-2-0) 0 0 0 00

HONOKAA, Hawaii — The understudies turned in starring performances for the Waimea football team Saturday night.

Kaili Arakaki stepped up at running back to the tune of a season-high 102 yards and two touchdowns as the Menehune notched a 17-0 win over host Honokaa in the semifinals of the First Hawaiian Bank Division II Football State Championships before a crowd of 2,000.

The defense recorded 12 total tackles behind the line of scrimmage and three interceptions to help Waimea (8-2) advance to its first-ever state title game in school history next Saturday where it will meet King Kekaulike at Mililani's John Kauinana Stadium.

Arakaki, a starting cornerback on defense, took over lead duties at tailback after the first quarter when starter Aukai Emayo sustained a hip injury on the Menehune's second possession of the game. Arakaki normally functions as a speed threat that can threaten the outside for the Waimea offense, but operated within the tackles for the most part after Emayo's injury.

"Kaili stepping up, that pretty much saved the game for us tonight," said Waimea coach Kyle Linoz. "He has speciality plays (on offense) that he runs like our outside stuff. He's our speed guy, but he had to do everything tonight for us."

Arakaki admitted that the new role on offense wasn't easy.

"It was kind of hard cause I never know the plays," said Arakaki. "I just had to go in for (Emayo) cause he came out. I just kept my head high and just listened to what coach is telling me, do my job."

Waimea RB Robbie Correa gets tackled after a short gain against Honokaa. Michael Lasquero | SL    Purchase image

Waimea also had to deal with the absence of two-way senior Robbie Correa midway through the second quarter after injuring his left shoulder making a sack on defense. On offense Correa does most of his damage on quick dives in the Menehune's run-heavy offense.

Before their injuries, Emayo and Correa were able to help Waimea march down the field on its opening drive. The duo combined for 11 straight runs before Arakaki took a sweep around left end for a 14-yard TD to give Waimea a 7-0 lead at the 4:48 mark of the first quarter.

Although the scoring drive started at the Menehune's 32-yard line, Waimea gained 98 yards on its opening possession as it overcame four penalties. Emayo's stat line in limited work was eight carries for 67 yards while Correa finished with 39 yards on nine carries.

Honokaa coach Fred Lau said the Waimea offense was hard to defend.

"We don't know who got the ball. That offense is something we don't see here in Big Island," Lau said.

Linoz said scoring on the opening possession was huge for his squad in hindsight.

"Without that drive it would have been 0-0, and with our horses going down, our defense would have to step up even more. We would be facing a more balanced attack with them if it was 0-0. Just fortunate it went the way it went."

Honokaa QB Elijah Kaupu-Alip releases a pass against Waimea. Michael Lasquero | SL    Purchase image

Honokaa (10-2) ran a variation of the triple-option to start the game with decent success. Fullback Bruce Reinbolt got good yards for the Dragons with 66 rushing yards on 13 carries and quarterback Elijah Kaupu-Alip displayed solid running ability around the edge with an 18-yard run on his first carry.

But with Waimea getting into field goal range three times and converting on one of them to go up 10-0 in the third quarter, Honokaa was forced to pass the ball more down the stretch.

The Menehune were more than ready for this as they had five sacks and seven quarterback hurries by the time the game was over. Linoz noted that they substituted speed for size on the defensive line with Kody Erdmann (5-10, 170) playing at left end and Brennen Fernandez (5-6, 148) playing at right end.

"We kind of picked up that (the quarterback) wanted to roll out a lot on us tonight so we took out our big guys and we put them in," said Linoz.

The Waimea coach also made sure to give credit to Rhaziah Tacub-Taniguchi, who played in all three phases of the game as a fullback, punter and as the leading tackler on defense with seven tackles.

"He was lead blocking for all the running backs, no carries and still plugging along doing his thing, and he's our outside linebacker. He's an all-around big tough guy," Linoz said.

Sophomore safety Mykah Brun was also solid playing in his second game on the varsity level with two picks and two tackles for loss. Kenny Okeigar had the other interception for Waimea.

Arakaki added a 41-yard TD run late in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach for the Dragons.

Honokaa did force two turnovers against Waimea. Uhane MockChew recorded an interception in the second quarter and Keane Tabac-Gomes recovered a fumble in the second half.

Waimea will try to bring home the KIF's second state title in consecutive years when it faces Kekaulike next Saturday at 4 p.m.

It will be a rematch of a non-league contest on Aug. 13, which the Menehune won, 21-10.

Reach Michael Lasquero at [email protected].

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