HHSAA Football
Konawaena makes history with championship win over Waipahu


Sat, Nov 26, 2022 @ Mililani [ 7:00 pm ]

Final 1 2 3 4 T
Konawaena (11-1-0) 14 14 7 338
Waipahu (11-2-0) 7 14 7 028
Liatama Uiliata 222 yd 2 TD
Keoki Alani 256 yd 2 TD
Anieli Teleaai 102 yd 1 TD
Kawelu Kaiawe 49 yd 1 TD

MILILANI — No. 9 Konawaena fended off No. 10 Waipahu, 38-28 to win their first-ever First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Division I Football Championship at Mililani's John Kauinana Stadium Saturday.

The Wildcats (11-1 overall) bring home the koa trophy to Kealakekua and become the third team from the Big Island since Hilo in 2017 and 2019 to win a Division I state championship.

"I'm so happy for this group of kids. They worked so hard since February. I'm happy that these guys got it because they really did deserve it," Konawaena coach Brad Uemoto said. "This program is filled with such tradition dating back to the 70s and 80s and what a special moment to do something this program never achieved. They're not going to be above any other group, but it's one for everyone to be proud of that was ever in our program."

The Marauders saw its 10-game winning streak snapped and ended the year on with a 11-2 overall record.

Keoki Alani threw for 256 yards on 27-of-36 passing, two touchdowns going to Zedekiah Anahu-Ambrosio and was intercepted once.

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"It feels great. I'm still shocked, my emotions are all over the place. It means a lot and I thank them for coming out and they show us love every single week and we owe them that," Alani said.

Waipahu scored on their opening offensive series going the length of the field with a 13-play, 75-yard drive capped by Anieli Talaeai's 6-yard run. Talaeai led all rushers with 102 yards on 14 carries and added 68 yards on three catches.

Konawaena shook off a sack for a 14-yard loss on its next series as Alani completed 5 of his 6 passes to move the Wildcats into Marauder territory. He completed a pass to Abraham Ogata and tacked on more yards from a facemark penalty. Kaiawe rushed for an 11-yard gain to the Waipahu 1 and Anahu-Ambrosio ended a 10-play, 51-yard drive with a 1-yard keeper to tie the game at 7.

The Wildcats forced a Marauder punt and took advantage of a pass interference penalty and Keoki Alani connected with Anahu-Ambrosio for a 21-yard touchdown to take a 14-7 lead to cap a seven-play, 69-yard drive. Anahu-Ambrosio was flagged for an unsportsmanlike penalty following the touchdown.

Liatama Uiliata rushed for a 7-yard gain and was tackled awkwardly at the 9:22 mark in the second quarter and came out and had to get his left ankle iced. Elijah Mendoza stepped in at QB after Uiliata left, but his pass fell incomplete on third-and-goal. Waipahu then lined up for a 27-yard field goal attempt, but Xavier Transfiguracion's kick was blocked by and returned by Chray Flanary for an 81 yard score to go up, 21-7.

"They made more plays at the end of the day. Hats off to them. They played a good game and had a good game plan going in. What turned the tide was blocked field goal for a touchdown. If you look at that, we put points on the board and would swap the whole score. That hurt us big time," Waipahu coach Bryson Carvalho said.

Roo Satta-Ellis picked off Mendoza on the Marauders' next drive and after a pass interference penalty, Anahu-Ambrosio caught his second receiving touchdown from 23 yards out for a 28-7 lead. Anahu-Ambrosio was disqualified after his second unsportsmanlike penalty after the score.

"He's such a hard matchup and we knew he would be an x-factor as he was against Aiea and then we lose him and we have to shuffle guys around. Uiliata comes back and it's like a movie. Then you have different kids step up," Uemoto said.

Uiliata came back with his ankle heavily taped up at the 3:08 mark. Talaeai gained 23 yards on two carries and Uiliata, despite a sprained ankle, dove for the pylon and rushed for an 11-yard rushing touchdown.

Nicholas Lotu intercepted Alani on the following series and Uiliata completed a 25-yard pass to Talaeai on the next play. Two plays later, he threw a 28-yard touchdown to Saige Marienthal 52 seconds before halftime as the Marauders trailed, 28-21 at the half.

"That was crazy. We felt it coming and we had to regroup and we have to play Konawaena football," Uemoto said.

Both teams traded punts to open the third quarter and Waipahu looked like it was going to force another punt, but Seth Setu was called for roughing the punter (Trez Uemoto) that extended Konawaena's drive.

"We thought he was blocked into the punter. We wanted to get a block, but it didn't go our way. We ran into his leg and they ended up getting the call. Two drives before that, a lot of penalties allowed them to move the ball up the field. That's coaching. That's no excuse. At the end of the day, they made more plays than we did," Carvalho said.

In the absence of Anahu-Ambrosio, Landon Daquel-Shimabukuro (eight catches, 79 yards) stepped up to convert a third down and hauled in a 31-yard pass to set up Kaiawe's 1-yard touchdown run two plays later to make it, 35-21.

"When Zed (Anahu-Ambrosio) left, he made huge catches for us. I can't be more proud of these kids that stuck it out and made big plays for us in the end," Uemoto said.

"They did very well. Zed's a big playmaker for us and other guys stepped up real big tonight," Alani said.

The Marauders answered with an 80-yard scoring drive of their own. Talaeai rushed for a first down and Uiliata completed passes to Chazen Rodillas-Vesido and Jayvren Pinera to get into Wildcat territory. Uiliata gained 12 yards on the ground before throwing a 8-yard touchdown to Rodillas-Vesido, who had a game-high seven catches for 101 yards, to get Waipahu within a score. 

Uiliata threw for 222 yards, his second highest output of the season, and completed 13 of his 29 passing attempts.

Austin Takaki, who had four catches for 25 yards, brought in a 14-yard pass to convert a big third-and-13. Kaiawe finished with 26 carries for 49 yards and broke free for a 13-yard run, his longest of the game to help drain the clock.

"They rose to the occasion. He (Takaki) hardly played all year, we need him. He was a two-way kid and sucked it up," Uemoto said.

Nakoa Ige, who hit the walkoff field goal against Aiea in the semifinals, went 5 for 5 on extra points and added a 36-yard field goal for insurance with 1:52 left in the fourth quarter.

Uiliata, who had 96 rushing yards against Kapaa and 199 yards against Iolani, was hounded all night by Wildcat defenders for minus-7 yards on 18 attempts and was sacked four times in the fourth quarter.

"We focused a lot on Tama. We knew he was elusive and our game plan was to rally to the ball and use our quickness up front and hopefully that was enough. We didn't want to get into a game of where we had to spy him and deplete our coverage. We were able to stay in our base defense and use our speed and quickness up front," Uemoto said.

Navas-Loa had 13 total tackles, 11 were solo and two critical sacks in the fourth quarter.

"It was tough at first, we didn't know what we were getting ourselves into. As soon as we got it down, he ain't going nowhere and we locked him down," Navas-Loa said.

Brock Higashi-Sojot led the Waipahu defense with 14 total tackles, Ia Fualema added 13 total tackles, 2 1/2 went for losses, and Setu had 10 total tackles, 3 1/2 went for losses.

Waipahu was seeking its second Division I title since 2018.

Konawaena beat Waipahu in 2017, 53-50 when both schools were in Division II.

Reach Brandon Ching at [email protected].

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