Bring it Back to the Big Island: Konawaena Wins Emotional Div. I Football Title
By: Paul Brecht
MILILANI – Every state title is filled with emotions. For teams, for schools, for entire communities.
In a high-scoring, back-and-forth affair, the Konawaena Wildcats defeated the Waipahu Marauders, 38-28, to win the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Division I state championship.
This one meant a little bit more to Konawaena.
After the tragic death of 2022 Konawaena graduate and former football player Maui Ellis-Noa, the Wildcats dedicated this football season to their former teammate.
Waipahu’s offense came out swinging in the opening quarter, marching down the field on the opening drive with a 13-play, 75-yard bulldozing to take an early 7-0 lead on an Anieli Talaeai six-yard touchdown run.
Following a three-and-out by the offense, Konawaena’s defense turned up the heat on Waipahu’s second possession. The Wildcats forced the Mauraders to punt quickly with a three-and-out of their own, and the Konawaena offense played their part next.
The Wildcats, led by the arm of Keoki Alani and the hands of Zedekiah Anahu-Ambrosio, answered back with a 1-yard run by Anahu-Ambrosio to cap a 10-play, 51-yard drive to tie the game 7-7.
Konawaena then stacked a defensive stop on top of another Anahu-Ambrosio touchdown, this time on a 21-yard connection from Alani, to go up 14-7. Anahu-Ambrosio was flagged for his first unsportsmanlike conduct following the score.
Waipahu looked to answer back with any kind of points and appeared poised to as Xaiver Transfiguracion lined up for a 27-yard field goal try, but it was blocked and returned 81 yards to the house by Chray Flanary to give the Wildcats a 21-7 lead.
Momentum continued to swing in favor of Konawaena, as Waipahu’s Elijah Mendoza was intercepted in Marauders territory.
Alani connected with Anahu-Ambrosio again on the next possession to open up a three-score lead for the Wildcats, but Anahu-Ambrosio’s game would come to an early end as was disqualified for his second unsportsmanlike conduct penalty of the day.
Trailing 28-7, Waipahu continued to fight back, scoring a pair of touchdowns nearly back-to-back before halftime to cut the Wildcats lead to just one score.
The defenses would start the second half out strong, but Konawaena would break the scoring drought first with a one-yard touchdown run from Kaiawe to give the Wildcats a 35-21 lead.
Waipahu once again answered, this time with an 80-yard drive of their own to remain within striking distance of a Konawaena team already down their leading weapon in Anahu-Ambrosio.
That 35-28 deficit was the closest the Marauders would get.
Konawaena iced the game with 1:52 remaining, as Nakoa Ige drilled a 36-yard field goal to give the Wildcats a 38-28 lead.
Alani finished the day with 256 yards passing and a pair of touchdown throws for Konawaena. Anahu-Ambrosio totaled three touchdowns (2 receiving, 1 rushing) before his second quarter ejection. Landon Daquel-Shimabukur filled in for the ejected receiver nicely, chipping in 79 yards over eight receptions.
Konawaena’s first Division I football state championship is one that the Wildcats and the community will never forget, and one that the players and program will cherish with their departed brother forever.
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