By Wes Nakama
WAIPAHU — Using big plays on offense and steady and clutch play on defense, Waipahu held off Farrington, 21-20, Saturday night to advance to the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Division I Football State Championship game for the second straight year.
An estimated crowd of about 1,700 at Masa Yonamine Stadium watched then Marauders deny the Governors on a late two-point conversion attempt and then run out the clock after a long drive to preserve the victory and improve to 7-4. They will face defending champ Konawaena (11-1) at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 25 at Mililani’s John Kauinana Stadium, earning that spot by the slimmest of margins.
After Waipahu took a 21-13 lead on Elijah Mendoza’s 55-yard touchdown pass to Eric Stephens and a two-point conversion pass from Mendoza to Chazen Rodillas-Vesido with 40 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Farrington defensive back Kaleb Delosantos scooped up a fumble and returned it 83 yards with 7:58 remaining in the game for the longest fumble return for a touchdown in state tournament history.
On the two-point conversion try, however, the Govs’ running play was stopped short of the goal line, and the Marauders were able to run 14 plays and gain five first downs to eventually run out the clock.
Farrington had taken a quick 6-0 lead on Sitani Mikaele’s 32-yard scamper to paydirt just over four minutes into the game, but the extra point attempt was blocked.
Waipahu quickly answered with Fa’afetai Faulaga’s 1-yard TD run, but the PAT also was blocked, leaving it at 6-6 midway through the first quarter.
The Marauders then took a 13-6 lead after Tai Aipia-Barrett took a shovel pass from Mendoza and galloped 90 yards to the end zone, and Ezekiel Stewart tacked on the extra point with 3:21 still remaining in the first quarter.
That score stood until two minutes into the third quarter, when Governors quarterback Noah Spencer connected with Chansen Smith on a 23-yard touchdown pass, and then threw to Mikaele to for the two-point conversion to put Farrington up, 14-13.
The lead held firm until 40 seconds left in the third quarter, when Mendoza hit Stephens in stride down the left sideline for the 55-yard go-ahead score.
“We made a play, and I’m just thankful for these boys,” said Stephens, who finished with 13 catches for 144 yards.
After a rocky start including two first-half interceptions, Mendoza ended up with 23 completions in 38 attempts for 315 yards and two TD’s.
Mikaele, the state’s leading rusher, finished with 109 yards and one touchdown on 20 carries, but was held to 29 yards in the second half.
Photos: Grant Shishido
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