Saturday, August 13, 2022 | By Nick Abramo
Waipahu started and finished strong, but in the middle the Marauders almost let it slip away Friday night.
Riding an immense two-way performance by Liatama Uiliata, visiting Waipahu had enough in the tank to get past Leilehua, 36-25.
“It’s always very hard to get out of here with a win,” Marauders coach Bryson Carvalho said. “They (the Mules) are so well coached. And we knew they were very capable of coming back because we watched them do it against Kailua (in what turned out to be a 27-all tie) last week.”
From his safety position, Uiliata made his presence felt right away with a first quarter interception and another pick that was nullified by a penalty.
And before the opening quarter ended, he was also the recipient of the game’s first score, a 70-yard catch-and-run touchdown bomb from quarterback Joshua Manu. Uiliata was right back at it, throwing the ensuing 2-point conversion pass to Faapaia Fualema for an 8-0 lead.
Uiliata, though, saved his best for last, coming up with his second interception with 5:15 left in the game and returning it 79 yards to turn a 4-point lead into the eventual final 36-25 count.
“That was a game-breaker right there,” said Uiliata, who wound up with 10 receptions for 228 yards. “I don’t know what to say. Got to credit the D-line for putting on the pressure.”
A little more than two minutes earlier, the Mules (0-1-1) showed they were very much still in it when Camren Flemister returned a kickoff 99 yards for a TD to cut the deficit to 29-25.
“It felt amazing at the time,” Flemister said. “The momentum was on our side and we had a chance to take over the game, but the outcome wasn’t what I expected.”
Earlier, Leilehua overcame an early 14-0 deficit with three straight touchdowns — two Dustin Chow to Darien Hoeppner-Corales passes of 21 and 30 yards and Timothy Arnold’s 37-yard run for a 19-14 edge with 4:39 left in the third quarter.
But Waipahu regained its mojo just in time with some key defensive stops that led to Manu’s 7-yard TD toss to Tai Aipia Barnett and a 2-point conversion pass to Uiliata to jump into a 22-19 lead.
Before the closing fireworks, Manu got a key TD for the Marauders (1-0) with a quarterback sneak to make it 29-19 with 7:48 to go.
“This win feels good,” Uiliata said. “They’re an Open team and we’re in D-I, so it shows we really can compete on that level.”
Manu finished with 365 passing yards.
For Leilehua, Chow threw for 203 yards and two TDs, but he also had two interceptions.
“The loss is very much disappointing, but we can’t dwell on it,” Flemister said. “We have the rest of the season to play.”
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