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HHSAA football: Konawaena defeats Waipahu, advances to 1st state title game

Updated: 
November 4, 2017 - 12:05am

KEALAKEKUA — In a game that featured the most offense in HHSAA Division II tournament history, a defensive play sealed a spot in the state championship game for Konawaena on Friday night at Julian Yates Field.

Down 53-50 with less than a minute to go, Waipahu drove to the Konawaena 10-yard line before the Wildcats’ defense rose up, forcing and recovering a fumble with less than 30 seconds left to secure the win.

The Wildcats will face defending state champion Lahainaluna in the Division II state championship game on Nov. 18 at Aloha Stadium. It’s the first state title game appearance for any team from the BIIF.

Division I champion Hilo has a chance to join Konawaena on Oahu with a win today against Maui in the D-I semifinals at Wong Stadium.

Konawaena quarterback Austin Ewing passed early, often and with resounding success during a near career-night, notching 370 yards passing and six total touchdowns (four passing, two rushing).

Waipahu nearly emptied the playbook to keep up in the high-scoring affair, starting its scoring with a deep pass out of the wildcat formation, trying out a few double-passes and even throwing in a well-executed hook-and-ladder.

Marauders running back Alfred Failauga notched 283 yards and four scores on the night — his season-high and the most given up by Konawaena this season. Braden Amorozo completed 22 of 40 passes for Waipahu, racking up 337 yards and three scores in the loss to go with a pair of picks.

Waipahu received the opening kickoff but didn’t hang onto it long. Konawaena defensive back Boaz Ayers snagged the first pass of the game at midfield to give the Wildcats their first possession. Ewing did the rest, guiding a nearly flawless opening scoring drive and finding the end zone on a 6-yard QB keeper.

As would become a theme in a first half that featured nearly 100 plays, Waipahu quickly did some damage of their own.

Despite having a 2,000-yard passer in Amorozo in their arsenal, the Marauders let Ezekiel-Kai Kapanui-Reyes deliver the first big throw of the game, hitting a wide open Zeondre Benjamin on a trick play. Benjamin didn’t have a Konawaena defender within 10 yards of him as he coasted 69 yards untouched.

Turnovers and targeting calls hampered Waipahu in the first half, and the Wildcats took advantage, including a stray snap off the helmet of Amorozo that Orion Smith took back 34 yards to make it a 14-6 game after the PAT.

While Ewing shouldered the offensive load for the Wildcats — throwing 29 passes in the first half — Failauga did it for Waipahu. The sophomore back toted the rock 25 times in the first half alone and had 131 yards by the break.

Surprisingly, the player getting the biggest chant from the raucous Kealakekua crowd was Konawaena kicker “Touchback” Harry Hill. On top of converting all of his extra point tries — and forcing touchbacks on nearly every kickoff — Hill drilled a 35-yard kick before halftime to push the Wildcats’ lead to 24-19.

While the first half set the stage for a wild offensive night, it was nothing compared to what the second half had to offer.

The teams combined for four touchdowns in less than five minutes to open the third quarter, including a 54-yard strike from Ewing and an 80-yard bomb from Amorozo.

The Waipahu defense seemed to stop the scoreboard onslaught with a stand on fourth down around mid-field, but a play later Konawaena came right back when Paka Cacoulidis forced a fumble. The Wildcats flipped the timely turnover into points yet again, with Ewing finding Jeriah Cacal down the middle of the field for a 36-yard strike.

Late in the third quarter with the Wildcats up 46-37, the game took a scary turn when a Waipahu player went down and was attended to by the medical crew on-site for more than 20 minutes, eventually leaving the field in an ambulance.

Konawaena picked up where it left off after the unexpected intermission, with Ewing scoring on a 1-yard passto Cacal, pushing the lead to 53-37.

But frankly, with a quarter left, no lead was safe, with Waipahu showing the ability to put up points in bunches.

The Marauders got within striking distance with a pair of TDs by Failauga in the fourth quarter. With less than two minutes left, Waipahu embarked on what looked to be the game-winning drive, aided by big plays and a costly pair of penalties against the Wildcats.

Waipahu ventured all the way to a 1st and goal opportunity before a sack forced a fumble and Tevin Canda jumped on it to put the final touch on a night that will be talked about in Kealakekua for a long time.

Scoring summary

First quarter

KONA — Austin Ewing 6-yard run (Harry Hill kick good)

WAIP — Zeondre Benjamin 69-yard pass from Ezekiel-Kai Kapanui-Reyes (kick failed)

KONA — Orion Smith 42-yard fumble return (Hill kick)

KONA — Ewing 1-yard run (Hill kick)

Second quarter

WAIP — Alfred Failauga 3-yard run (2-pt fail)

WAIP — Braden Amorozo 34-yard pass to Matthew Fiesta (Amorozo kick good)

KONA — Harry Hill 35-yard field goal

Third quarter

KONA — Ewing 54-yard pass to Tyler Libarios (kick good)

WAIP — Failauga 22-yard run (2-pt fail)

KONA — Ewing 36-yard pass to Chauncey Mariani-Louis (2-pt run good)

WAIP — Amorozo 80-yard pass to Fiesta (2-pt run fail)

KONA — Ewing 41-yard pass to Jeriah Cacal (Hill kick good)

WAIP — Amorozo 25-yard pass to Alika Ahsing (2-pt run failed)

KONA — Ewing 1-yard pass to Cacal (kick good)

Fourth Quarter

WAIP — Failauga 64-yard run (2-pt run failed)

WAIP — Failauga 7-yard run (kick good)

Waipahu 6 13 18 13 – 50

Konawaena 21 3 29 0 –53

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