Ground and Pound: Waimea Runs Away With Div. II Crown

Ground and Pound: Waimea Runs Away With Div. II Crown

Ground and Pound: Waimea Runs Away With Div. II Crown

By: Paul Brecht

MILILANI – The Waimea Menehunes used their powerful rushing attack to control the time and score of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Division II state championship game, running all over the King Kekaulike Na Alii defense en route to a 45-6 victory and the school’s first ever state championship.

Waimea ran for 443 yards on the night, as eight different players had touches in the run game and four of those players had over 50 yards rushing.

Kameron Apilado was the main workhorse for the Menehunes, as the running back racked up 228 yards on just 11 touches to go along with two touchdowns. Over 150 of those yards came on two of Apilado’s runs.

After Waimea jumped out to a 10-0 lead, King Kekaulike used a 15-play, 75 yard drive to cut the lead to 10-6 just minutes into the second quarter.

Waimea turned on the jets after that, scoring 35 points that would go unanswered by King Kekaulike thanks in part to a suffocating defensive performance from the Menehunes.

Aukai Emayo rushed 15 times for 83 yards and a pair of touchdowns for Waimea. Kaili Arakaki chipped in a touchdown to go along with another 53 rushing yards for the Menehunes.

King Kekaulike’s lone score came on the only completion of the game from Kalelepono Wong, who hit Ahe Sumibcay for a 31-yard touchdown. Na Alii was held to just 189 total offensive yards.

It was a dominant performance by Waimea, who had a great turnout of fans at Mililani High School for the program’s first state title.

Bring it Back to the Big Island: Konawaena Wins Emotional Div. I Football Title

Bring it Back to the Big Island: Konawaena Wins Emotional Div. I Football Title

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.

Back to Back: Kahuku Red Raiders Crowned State Champs Again

Back to Back: Kahuku Red Raiders Crowned State Champs Again

Back to Back: Kahuku Red Raiders Crowned State Champs Again

By: Paul Brecht

MILILANI – The Kahuku Red Raiders took down the Punahou Buffanblu, 20-0, to claim the school’s second consecutive First Hawaiian Bank\HHSAA Open Division state championship.

It was the Red Raiders’ 10th state championship in program history

A star-studded Kahuku defensive unit led by University of Texas commit Liona Lefau once again put on a magnificent display against another powerhouse in No. 2 Punahou, who had just come off a 50-plus point scoring outburst in the state semifinals.

The Red Raider offense took over after an opening drive three-and-out from Punahou and immediately got the party started for the Red Wave in attendance. Kahuku used a 12-play, 68-yard drive (capped off by a 1-yard Waika Crawford run) to give Kahuku a 7-0 lead.

The Red Raiders would pull away from Punahou in the 2nd quarter, using the strong legs of junior running back Vaaimalae Fonoti to continue to dominate time of possession throughout the first half. University of Utah-bound wideout/kicker Kainoa Carvalho then helped Kahuku increase the lead to 17-0 heading into the break.

Kahuku’s defense would force four turnovers throughout the evening (three fumbles, one interception) as they kept a Buffanblu rushing attack that averaged almost 295 yards per contest this season to just 62 rushing yards.

The 20-0 final score served as some long-awaited redemption for the Red Raiders as it was the first shutout in the highest level of Hawaii-state championship football since 1999 when St. Louis shutout Kahuku, 19-0. (via Billy Hull/Twitter @billyhull)

Crawford ended the evening passing for 177 yards and running for 69 more to go along with a touchdown run and pass to cap off the senior quarterback’s high school career.

Fonoti tallied 113 yards on the ground on 23 carries for the Red Raiders. Carvalho finished his Kahuku career with seven catches for 79 yards and chipped in a pair of field goals from 21 and 40 yards.

HHSAA DI Football Semifinal: Waipahu 35, Iolani 10

HHSAA DI Football Semifinal: Waipahu 35, Iolani 10

HHSAA DI Football Semifinal: Waipahu 35, Iolani 10

On Saturday afternoon, the Marauders advanced to the Division I title game of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Football State Championships after a convincing 35-10 semifinal victory over previously undefeated and defending champion ‘Iolani.

As they’ve done for much of the season, Waipahu (11-1) hopped on the Tama Uiliata locomotive. The senior receiver turned quarterback made the difference at ‘Iolani’s Kozuki Stadium, especially in the first half when the two teams were trying to latch on to any kind of advantage. (Read More at

Photos by Alan Velasco | Instagram: @oscalev_

One of Preston Taumua’s greatest highlights is how much he highlights others

One of Preston Taumua’s greatest highlights is how much he highlights others

Preston Taumua

By: Nick Abramo

Preston Taumua rates as the proverbial big man on campus at Aiea, but that’s not how he tells it.

Sure, he listens when people tell him how good he is as Na Alii’s left tackle, but in his own mind, he’s not at that advanced point yet.

“It’s nice to hear it from others,” Taumua told Hawaii Sports Radio Network on Wednesday. “It was in the middle of ninth grade that I would hear the coaches and that’s when I knew I had to keep playing the sport.”

Photo credit: Nick Abramo

Even now as a highly recruited junior with the plaudits and scholarship offers continuing to roll in, he’s in awe of it all.

“When I got the Oregon offer, I was surprised because I don’t think I’m close to my potential yet in high school,” Taumua said.

That may be true, but where he’s at is not only good enough for the Ducks’ brass, but also seven other FBS Division I schools. Alabama, among the most storied college football programs ever, is the latest to send a scholarship offer Taumua’s way. The others are big-name programs Ohio State, Florida, Oklahoma, Utah, Arizona and Nebraska.

“He’s still growing,” Aiea coach Wendell Say said about the 6-foot-5, 320-pound lineman. “He was 6-4 last year and grew an inch. He might grow another inch next year. My wife saw him in person for the first time on our trip to Maui and asked, ‘Is that Preston? He’s huge. He takes up the whole elevator.’ ”

Size is one thing, but Taumua’s technique and effort are also the things the college coaches are looking for.

“He runs well for his size,” Say added. “When we do conditioning, we do a lot of running and he and the Rouse brothers (6-5, 210-pound defensive end Logan and 6-4, 275-pound right tackle Max) are always the first in the runs. Some guys smaller then them can’t keep up. Preston has strength and good balance and has good movement off of the ball. He can shuffle right and shuffle left. When he’s blocking, he’s hard to beat.”

Playing with his brother (literally) and brothers (teammates) is a big deal for the big boy who wears jersey No. 68 in forest green and white (and pink in October in honor of breast cancer awareness month).

His older brother, senior Parker Taumua, is a defensive lineman for Na Alii. And, for sure, Preston just can’t seem to ever say enough about many of the others on the roster. If the interview for this story went longer, he probably would have hit every player on the list.

“I’ll call you back and tell you more about them,” he said after getting into the importance of his friendship with a handful of the other boys and how Ezekiel Olie and Jayden Chanel would win the best quarterback/receiver combo award if there was such a thing.

And Taumua proudly detailed what the rest of the offensive linemen mean to him.

“We’ve got three seniors,” Taumua said. “Parker Griep at center, Trace Ader (right guard) is the vocal one who speaks up for everybody. Max is the brains of the line. Whenever we don’t know something, we go to him and he knows what to do. After the seniors, we’ve got (left guard) Ezra Nahoopii-Makakona, who is my right hand man and he’s always there to pick up the slack every time I do something bad. Upu (Howard) is a starter in the same position as Trace, who is injured right now. And one other guy who plays center and guard, Matthew Tulia, is a good all-around player who brings us up when we’re down and makes sure we keep our chill when we need to.”

Giving others credit is Taumua’s modus operandi, or as Say puts it, “He’s the nicest kid. You don’t find too many who are as good as him on the field and as humble as he is.”

An Aiea junior varsity player who got called up to the varsity for the postseason, linebacker Reise Hans-Pickett, found out real quick what it’s like to practice against Taumua.

“He gets into the block really well and you barely have time to react,” Hans-Pickett said. “Then his hands are like vice grips that can punch through your chest. I’m grateful for the opportunity to practice with such a great player, but I don’t like holes in my chest.”

Aiea (9-3) will have one or two games to play before the season is through.
First up is a Saturday game against Konawaena (9-1), the BIIF Division I champion, in the D-I semifinals of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Football State Championships.

A win in that one would put Na Alii in the state title game against the winner of Saturday’s other D-I semifinal between Waipahu (10-1) and ‘Iolani (9-0).

“I think we have a strong team,” Taumua said. “I keep telling them that we have to go over there (to the Big Island) and rough them up and let them know how we play over here.”

Interestingly enough, one of Taumua’s career highlights is, you guessed it, about others.

“I was crying,” he said about a 38-30 loss to Waipahu in the OIA D-I championship game. “It was tough. They have a player, Seth Setu. He’s only 5-6, but he’s by far the hardest D-end I’ve ever met. He tried to rush the outside using his speed and used his outside hand to swipe my arm and try to swim move me. The next thing you know, I feel his elbow hitting my rib and then he spins and I got caught. He got me and then got a sack. I had him (previously handled) the whole game. But what I like about him is — as those Waipahu guys were all celebrating and jumping up and down across the field — Seth and (middle linebacker) Romeo (Tagata) came straight to our sideline to shake everybody’s hands.”

Freshly Recovered From A Fractured Kneecap, OIA Title-Winning Ninth-Grade QB Elijah Mendoza Guides Waipahu Into The D-I Football State Tournament

Freshly Recovered From A Fractured Kneecap, OIA Title-Winning Ninth-Grade QB Elijah Mendoza Guides Waipahu Into The D-I Football State Tournament

Ninth-Grade QB Elijah Mendoza Guides Waipahu Into D-I Football State Tournament

By: Nick Abramo

When No. 13 stepped out to play quarterback for Waipahu in the OIA Division I championship game, it was a surprise to everybody not associated with the Marauders.

The real eye-opener was yet to come for Elijah Mendoza, a freshman, who walked on to the field for his first varsity game to lead a bunch of boys one, two and three years older than him. Talk about untested. Talk about butterflies.

“For every freshman going out there, you should be nervous,” Mendoza told Hawaii Sports Radio Network on Wednesday before practice in preparation for Friday’s D-I first-round game at home against Kapaa (5-3) in the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Football State Championships. “But you shouldn’t be scared. Once you play in the game, you get used to it over time and everything slows down. Playing at that high level, I knew I had to be more disciplined and keep that mind-set of getting the ball out quick.”

The results were absolutely fantastic. Even though the Marauders (9-1) fell behind by 17 points against Aiea, they didn’t buckle and fought back to win 38-30 at the Mililani High field on Oct. 29 for the school’s first league title since 2018.

Personally, Mendoza made the step up to varsity a memorable one, completing 29 of 45 passes for 262 yards and four touchdowns.

2022 OCT 29 SPT – Photo by Andrew Lee / Hawaii High School Athletic Association

A lesser prepared player, certainly, may not have gotten Waipahu to this particular promised land.

“He has a great knowledge of the game,” Marauders coach Bryson Carvalho said. “Eli has a willingness to learn. We meet at 3:30 every day, breaking down film. Some of the older kids fall asleep and think it’s the boring part. It’s a long process and you replay and replay. He’s just so willing to learn. A true football player, to me, has to enjoy that part.”

When junior starting QB Joshua Manu, who had a great season going, went down with a season-ending injury in a 59-24 win over Roosevelt on Sept. 23, Carvalho moved star receiver/kick returner/safety Liatama Uiliata to QB.

With Uiliata leading the offense, Waipahu didn’t miss a beat. However, they were not getting the most out of the versatile multi-position player.

And then some real serendipity happened for Carvalho and the Marauders. The coach knew Mendoza, who had played three JV games but was out with a fractured kneecap, was capable to step in if healthy.

“Essentially, Eli played three JV games, which is not a lot of experience,” Carvalho said. “We brought him up to varsity one week when we thought JJ (Manu) was sick and didn’t know if he was going to play. It ended up being just a cold, so Eli went back down to JV, where he wasn’t fully the starter and really worked to earn that spot. Then, when he got hurt, we thought he may be out for the season, but we were never sure. So I had that (a possible move back up to varsity for Mendoza) in his ear.”

While preparing for a first-round OIA playoff game against Farrington on Oct. 21, Carvalho found out from Mendoza that he was cleared to run with full pads but no contact.

“On Monday, the (next) week of the championship game, I was scheming two different game plans, one with Eli and one with Tama at QB, but because of the faith I had, I was riding more on what we could do with Eli,” Carvalho said. “At midday, he texted me that he was cleared. I told Tama, who said, ‘Let’s go coach. Let’s do this.’ It turned out to be quite a comeback story for Eli and now we’re not shooting down Tama’s versatility.”

One big aspect of Mendoza’s learning curve has been getting used to the speed of the varsity level. But Carvalho had that covered by making practice extra difficult for the kid.

“Practice was harsh on me,” Mendoza said. “It was really fast.”

Added Carvalho: “In JV and youth football, you can get away with a lot more and throw the ball to a receiver if he is open. In varsity, you have to see where he is going to get and then throw it on his break. You can’t wait and look at the break. So I really got on him (about that). I’ve been real hard on him.”

After seeing the potent Aiea defense in the title game, Mendoza knows there’s a lot of room for growth. And he’ll get three years to do just that before graduating.

“I think I did all right for my first game in vars,” he said. “Still, I think I could have gotten the ball out faster and more crisper. I was floating balls on the short routes and I know I can be faster there. And, when I was running and scrambling, I was a little too upright.”

Uiliata, who is a candidate for state offensive player of the year honors, spoke to Mendoza before the big test.

“He came up to me and told me to ball out, to trust in the team, trust in the receivers, trust in everybody,” Mendoza said.

And the freshman added his thoughts about the next game against the Warriors from the Garden Island who moved up to D-I this season after winning the D-II state title a year ago.

“We cannot let our guard down,” Mendoza said. “Gotta keep working. Kapaa is going to be a tough team and we’ve all told each other that we have to be ready for them.”


2022 OCT 29 SPT – Photo by Andrew Lee / Hawaii High School Athletic Association

Click here to purchase tickets for the 2022 First Hawaiian Bank State Football Championships.

Sharks Weekly Review: Women’s Soccer (12/5/22)

Sharks Weekly Review: Women’s Soccer (12/5/22) By: Paul BrechtHONOLULU – Happy holidays and a warm welcome back from us at Sharks Weekly, as host Jason Genegabus was joined this week by the HPU women’s soccer head coach Adria Borras, assistant...

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