KAILUA-KONA — When Kealakehe needed a jolt against Pearl City, Kalani Piltz found some space.
While completions were few and far between for the Waveriders, Piltz came up with the clutch catches, racking up 131 receiving yards and two touchdowns to help to Waveriders hold off the Chargers 33-20 on Saturday night at Waverider Stadium.
The win was the first in a season opener for the Waveriders since a 28-7 victory over Maui in 2015.
Piltz finished with five catches in the game from senior quarterback Jorden Himalaya — his masterpiece a suave over the shoulder 50-yard grab for the game-winning score.
Himalaya was 8 of 16 for 156 yards and two scores in the preseason affair, adding 47 yards with his legs.
As a team, the Waveriders rushed for over 200 yards, led by Duwayne Johnson’s 87 yards and two scores. Kainakoa Broadfoot bulldozed his way for 65 yards, but exited in the first quarter with an injury.
Pearl City used a two quarterback system with Adam Puchert and Christian Tielu. The duo combined to go 6-14 for 111 yards and a score.
After an early 14-yard touchdown run by Johnson, the teams would go scoreless the rest of the half, with the Waveriders holding the slight 7-0 lead at the break. The first 24 minutes, however, were a story of missed opportunities for the Waveriders. Kealakehe failed to convert on three fourth downs in Pearl City territory, including a fourth and inches on the Chargers’ 12-yard line due to a bobbled snap.
Pearl City survived three first half fumbles, two that were recovered by Kealakehe. The turnover bug carried over early in the second half.
Kealakehe linebacker Brayan Peralta nabbed a tipped pass on the Chargers’ opening drive, giving the Waveriders possession at midfield. The turnover, however, did not translate into any points.
Midway through the third quarter, Pearl City’s Shayden Mcmoore took things into his own hands — and out of Kealakehe’s. The senior defensive back ripped the ball out of the Waverider ball carrier’s grip, running untouched 65 yards for the score. As an encore, he ran in the two-point conversion to make it 8-7.
It would be the first of six lead changes in the second half.
The Waveriders responded before the end of the quarter. Himalaya lofted a pass over the middle to an open Piltz, who scampered 26 yards for the score on his first catch of the season. The kick failed, but the Waveriders still grabbed the lead back at 13-8 with just a minute left in the third quarter. It didn’t last long.
Aifua Moe returned the ensuing kickoff to the Waverider 2-yard line, and a personal foul on the ‘Riders moved it just inches from paydirt. In a jumbo set, Gabriel Parrish pounded it in to make it 14-13 after the failed 2-point conversion.
Piltz made his presence known again on a 46-yard catch and run, but the ball popped out and was returned by Pearl City. However, after conferring, Piltz was called down by the officials and the Waveriders took over inside the Chargers’ 10-yard line. Two plays later, Himalaya found Kaden Baptista from seven yards out to retake the lead, 19-14.
The Waveriders strung together some runs, but a failed fourth down conversion gave Pearl City stellar field position.
As Nick Saban would say, two quarterbacks are better than one, and Pearl City would agree. Puchert zoomed a backward pass to Tielu, who found a wide open Herbert Hallers for a 42-yard score, silencing the crowd as the Chargers yet again grabbed control of the game.
The Waveriders took the lead back for good when Piltz made his highlight reel catch over the middle, shaking his defender and rumbling 50 yards for the eventual winning score.
Johnson added a weaving touchdown run with less than a minute to go, his second of the night.
For coach Shawn
The game was dubbed the inaugural Shawn Akana Classic. Akana was a coach at Kealakehe for nearly two decades and passed away in February. A scholarship has been formed in his name, which will go to one male and one female student-athlete at Kealakehe High School that demonstrates the three “Waverider Rs” — relationships, respect and responsibility — in the classroom and on the field.
More memorabilia will be on sale at Waverider home games, along with a dish of the night at the concession stand, with all money going directly to the scholarship fund.
Those looking to donate can contact Louie Garcia at 854-1074 or the high school directly at 313-3600.