Waipahu put its midseason stumbles in the distant past on Saturday in a 42-22 rout of defending champion Hilo in the Division I final of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Football State Championships.
It’s the first state football title in any division for the 10th-ranked Marauders (10-4), who had to fight back from a 12-point deficit to beat ‘Iolani 20-19 two weeks ago just to get into the finale.
“It’s amazing, coming out here and showing the community what we’re capable of doing,” said Marauders running back Alfred Failauga, who rushed for 151 yards and a TD. “We practice for nine months; it’s a blessing the good opportunities we have. The last couple of years, we didn’t do too well (in the postseason). We stuck together as a team and came out with the W.’ ”
Senior Amo Montero and freshman Matthius Aleaga, who recently came up from Waipahu’s junior varsity team, led the Marauders’ dominant defensive performance. They both had three sacks in the first half, when Waipahu went up 28-7.
“Winning a championship for Waipahu is a feeling like no other,” Montero said. “Now it’s time to prepare for next year. I won’t be here, but we’ve got the brotherhood going and we know the underclassmen will keep it up.
“We were really hungry. After eating all that turkey on Thanksgiving, man, we were still hungry. Always hungry.”
As a unit, the Waipahu defense held the Big Island Interscholastic Federation champion and ninth-ranked Vikings (9-2) to 178 scrimmage yards, including just 77 in the first half.
In addition, Deacon Kapea showed some of his trademark resiliency for the Marauders, intercepting a Kyan Miyasato pass and returning it 38 yards for a touchdown. In that crucial comeback against ‘Iolani two weeks ago, Kapea had three picks. Zachary Camanse chipped in with seven tackles, including 21⁄2 sacks.
As expected, the Hilo defense got a heavy dose of Failauga, the workhorse junior who ran the ball 21 times and also threw a 15-yard halfback option TD pass to Saxon Tote.
Things weren’t looking too good for the Marauders on Oct. 5, when a 29-5 loss to Moanalua put them at 5-4. But it’s been five wins in a row since, including four in the postseason.
“Once we put everything together, we found our identity and they realized how good they can be,” Waipahu coach Bryson Carvalho said about his players. “They began to play with a little more confidence. Once you have confidence, you play a little more freely and things end up working out better.”
Hilo got as close as 28-14 early in the second half on Miyasato’s 4-yard TD pass to Kyler Aguiar, but that did not lead to the Marauders caving in. They immediately went on an 11-play drive — capped by Failauga’s 2-yard TD run — for a 35-14 bulge with 2:39 left in the third.
With 3:34 to go in the game, the BIIF champion Vikings pulled to 42-22 on Aguiar’s 80-yard TD reception from Miyasato and a 2-point conversion. Hilo then got a last glimmer of hope by recovering the ensuing onside kick, but it did not lead to points.
“Waipahu’s defense was solid,” Hilo coach Kaeo Drummondo said. “They were long and physical like we thought they would be and they gave us problems. We had problems all over, though. It was one of those nights. You don’t play your best game and it showed in a lot of aspects. It’s not the players. This is on me not getting them as ready as we need to get them.”
Carvalho hopes to keep the Waipahu football renaissance going. Along with this state title, the Marauders now have two OIA titles in a row (D-I this year and D-II in 2017). Overall, Waipahu has 13 league titles, including 10 (nine between 1946 and 1971) in D-I.