Saturday, November 12, 2022 | By: Nick O’Connor
Waipahu scored 30 second half points to rally past the visiting Kapa’a Warriors to win the opening game of the first round in the OIA Division I playoffs, 49-41 at Masa Yonamine Athletic Complex in Waipahu.
“I challenged them at halftime, our motto is Black Flag Football, it’s play to the end,” said Marauders head coach Bryson Carvalho, “I told them in the second half, everyone is going to know what it’s really about.”
The Marauders were able to complete their thrilling comeback win in large part due to the play from senior Liatama Uiliata. Uilata, who finished the game with 202 total offensive yards (106 passing and 96 rushing) and 3 total touchdowns, helped Waipahu erase a 35-13 deficit when he began to take the snaps from behind center.
Uiliata entered the game as a quarterback in Waipahu’s final drive of the first half where he led them down to score on a 44-yard touchdown pass to Jayvren Pinera just 35 seconds before going into the locker room.
“Number 2. That was the big adjustment, having him open up our offense,” Coach Carvalho said as he spoke about ‘Tama’ and his impact on swinging the momentum of the game.
The visiting Warrior’s defense was able to put themselves in a good position on their first drive of the game. Kapa’a was able to jump out to an early lead when Mahana Alameda intercepted just the second throw of the game from the Marauders for pick-six.
On the very next Marauders drive, a screen pass was intercepted by Steeler Burley. Burley’s interception set up the offense and a 15-yard touchdown run by junior quarterback Kapono Na-O to go up 14-0.
The first quarter did not belong to either team, as Waipahu was able to answer back with two first quarter touchdowns of their own.
Their two first quarter touchdowns came from the legs of junior running back Anieli Talaeai. Talaeai scored on two consecutive drives to close out the first quarter. He finished the game with 3 touchdowns and 140 yards on 18 attempts, his longest being a 77-yard scamper with 57 seconds left in the first.
In the second quarter, Kapa’a looked like they were going to run away with things as they scored 21 unanswered points on three straight drives.
On the second play of the quarter Kaalei Gonsalves was able to find the endzone from 22-yards out. Solomone Malafu followed that score with an 11-yard run of his own with 4:34 left in the quarter. Then with just 1:43 left, Gonsalves caught a pass from Na-O to bring the score to 35-13.
Coming out of the half time break the momentum of the game seemed to shift.
“We found out going into halftime that this team is not who we think they were,” said Waipahu’s
senior defensive back Tyrus Niutoa, “We had to fight even more and buckle down.”
Niuatoa was able to make a couple huge plays of his own in the fourth quarter as he intercepted passes on two consecutive drives.
“I noticed they had been throwing the seam the whole game. I thought if I could just get over, I could make a play,” Niutoa said.
The fourth is when the defense and special teams of the home team also put their stamp on the game as they completely halted the Warriors offense.
The Marauders were able to pin the Warriors inside their own 5-yard line. The drive ended in a punt. Seth Setu scorched through the line and blocked the punt that was scooped up by Romeo Tagata and taken into the endzone to bring the score to 41-35, after a 2-point conversion.
A couple scoring drives ensued late in the game from both sides. With 8:04 left in the quarter Uiliata dropped a dime to Chazen Rodillas-Vesido in the middle of the field for a 31-yard touchdown completion.
Kapa’a scored their final touchdown with 1:30 seconds on the clock as they shoved the ball into the end zone on a 3-yard run by Na-O bringing the final score, 49-41. Na-O finished the game with 126 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 26 attempts.
The Warriors attempted an onside kick that was recovered by the Marauders. Waipahu was able to seal the game by kneeling the ball to run out the clock and continue their season.
Kapa’a fell short of defending their state championship as they ended the year 5-4.
The Marauders will look to continue their run as they take on the Raiders of Iolani on November 19th at Kozuki Stadium.
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