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Nanakuli blows past Pac-Five, 38-6, in DII quarterfinals

Sunday, November 13, 2022

By: Wes Nakama

NANAKULI — After a characteristic slow start, Nanakuli blew past visiting Pac-Five, 38-6, Saturday night in First Hawaiian Bank/Hawai’i High School Athletic Association Division II Football State Quarterfinals action.

An enthusiastic and vocal crowd of about 1,500 watched the Golden Hawks improve to 10-1 and advance to Saturday’s semifinal game at King Kekaulike in Makawao, Maui. Pac-Five, which was making its first state tournament appearance since 2018, ended its season at 3-5.

The victory by Nanakuli was the school’s first in state tournament play since a 25-23 win at Konawaena in the 2012 DII quarterfinals. 

“I definitely think this was very special, to have a state tournament game at home,” said Golden Hawks wing back Allen Mahoe III, who rushed for 70 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries and also scored on a two-point conversion. “To see the crowd come out again, and give us their support was really awesome.”

Despite the lopsided final score, the game actually was tight in the first half and scoreless through the first 17 minutes. Pac-Five put together a 16-play drive in the first quarter, traveling some 76 yards before stalling with an incomplete pass on fourth-and-goal from the 9-yard line. As it turned out, that was the Wolf Pack’s best offensive series of the night and the deepest they would penetrate into Nanakuli territory until late in the fourth quarter.

“It comes down to blocking, comes down to running, and comes down to tackling,” said Pac-Five coach Kena Heffernan. “We didn’t convert on some things, we didn’t catch some passes we should have caught, and it just snowballed a little bit.”

The Golden Hawks capitalized by marching 91 yards in 10 plays, capped by Mahoe’s 5-yard TD run. The extra point attempt failed, but Nanakuli had a 6-0 lead with 6:46 remaining in the second quarter. After later forcing the Wolf Pack into a three-and-out, the Golden Hawks covered 68 yards in just six plays, highlighted by Hansen Salausa-Ka’awa’s 44-yard pass to Richard Federico which helped to set up Mahoe’s 8-yard touchdown two plays later.

Nathan Pele-Tukumoeatu then ran in the two-point conversion to make it 14-0 with just 42 seconds left in the first half.

“After that first touchdown, I feel like we were really fired up after that,” said Mahoe, a 5-foot-8, 155-pound senior. “I realized that we were having a rough start and came out slow, so I thought we gotta make something happen, we gotta get something rolling. make a change somehow.”

Nanakuli coach Kili Watson said slow starts have been quite normal for his team this year.

“Historically this season, we’ve always had slow starts, we were really trying to avoid it,” Watson said. “It’s really just getting the kids’ engines going. We had a two-week bye, and I feel like a lot of them, when we came out tonight, we were kind of like it’s been awhile since we were back on the field. As for halftime adjustments, it was really just taking care of (Pac-Five’s) ends — their ends were doing a phenomenal job of stretching out our tosses, which is kind of our go-to play. So we were just making adjustments to counter those.”

The Golden Hawks wasted little time in the second half, taking the opening kickoff to their own 39 yard line and then quickly covering 61 yards in just four plays, capped by Pele-Tukumoeatu’s 12-yard TD run on a double-handoff “criss-cross” misdirection play followed by Chris Asinsin’s two-point conversion to make it 22-0.

Later, Nanakuli marched 74 yards in only nine plays, with Mahoe’s 4-yard touchdown run followed by his own two-point conversion score to help give the Golden Hawks a commanding 30-0 lead four minutes into the fourth quarter.

Pac-Five finally broke through on Blade Kaulula’au’s 4-yard TD run with 3:42 remaining in the game, but Nanakuli answered just 90 seconds later on a 1-yard scoring plunge by Asinsin.

Pele-Tukumoeatu led all rushers with 135 yards on just nine carries, and Asinsin added 33 yards on 10 attempts. Combined, the Golden Hawks’ self-proclaimed “Three-Headed Beast” backfield rushed for 238 yards on 33 carries. Salausa-Ka’awa completed 14 of 22 passes for 216 more yards, with two interceptions.

“They’ve got some good misdirection backs going on, I like their RPO system,” Heffernan said. 

Watson said Nanakuli’s modified Wing-T offense is a blend of old and new concepts.

“We use old-school blocking schemes, but also mix it in with some spread and some RPO’s and what-not,” Watson said. “It’s different flavors.”

Photos by: Lori McKeown

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