Warriors Prevail Against Upcountry Rival Na Alii, 20-12
By Rodney S. Yap
It was a game all of Upcountry Maui could be proud of.
In the end, however, Kamehameha Schools Maui earned bragging rights to the unofficial Upcountry title over cross-town rival King Kekaulike, rallying behind a pair of touchdown passes late in the game to squeeze out a 20-12 victory.
Both teams showed tremendous poise and gumption down the stretch Saturday — combining for 22 points in the final half of the fourth quarter — but the Warriors’ top playmakers sealed their fate by overcoming the pressure and executing when it counted. Not an easy task in the cold confines of King Kekaulike Stadium, where a sparse crowd of about 800 endured a persistent drizzle and gusting wind conditions.
Kamehameha Maui quarterback Kainoa Sanchez delivered the go-ahead touchdown pass to Ekolu Watanabe while scrambling to his left under heavy pursuit. The 15-yard touchdown reception came with 4 minutes, 53 seconds left in the game and erased King Kekaulike’s 9-7 lead established two minutes before.
On the ensuing possession, the Warriors’ defense pinned Na Alii deep in their own territory and middle linebacker Mike Kahula tackled punter Kawika Akahi after his fake attempt failed to pick up a first down.
Kamehameha Maui worked the game clock with consecutive running plays before Sanchez launched a spiral into the corner of the end zone that Maika’ike English caught by leaping above the defensive back fronting him. The 20-yard touchdown pass padded the Warriors lead to 20-9 and came with 90 seconds left to play.
Na Alii showed no quit and no ill affects of their tumultuous week that included a forfeit to Maui High and the arrest of a player by the Maui Police Department for an alleged theft involving members of the school’s junior varsity team at Lahainaluna.
Kekaulike responded by going 72 yards in nine plays before Akahi kicked a 25-yard field goal with 15 seconds left. An unsuccessful onside kick closed out a very entertaining Maui Interscholastic League game, allowing the Warriors to level their record at 3-3 overall and 1-1 in the second round.
King Kekaulike remains winless at 0-6, 0-2 in the second round.
Kamehameha built a 7-3 halftime lead and a 200 to 20 advantage in offensive yardage. The Warriors finished with 313 yards in offense compared to King Kekaulike’s 168.
The Warriors’ Ikaika Chong Kee led all runners with 70 yards on seven carries. His 39-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-1 gave Kamehameha the early lead with 6:53 in the first quarter. He also caught a 38-yard screen pass that set the table for Watanabe’s go-ahead score.
Quarterback Cameron Russell helped King Kekaulike engineer its best drive of the game — 10 plays, 59 yards — by working himself into the zone on a 1-yard dive with 6:53 to play. Russell heaved a pair of first-down passes into the wind that sophomore receiver Damon Madera managed to adjust his body to and catch, despite being closely defended.
Na Alii’s defense was led by the sure tackling of senior linebacker Joseph Shutsa. Antonio Savou also had a big game, including an interception of a Sanchez pass that thwart a Warriors’ scoring threat. Junior Martin Flores also intercepted Sanchez, grabbing a tipped pass in the end zone before halftime.
Kamehameha’s defense was led by the play of Kahula, English, Keaghan Gomes and Kupono Duarte.
Saturday’s MIL Scoring Summary
WARRIORS 20, NA ALII 12
At King Kekaulike Stadium
Kamehameha Maui 7 0 0 13—20
King Kekaulike 0 3 0 9—12
KM—Ikaika Chong Kee 39 run (Kealaula Keliikoa kick), 6:53.
KK—FG Kawika Akahi 40, 4:29.
KK—Cameron Russell run (kick blocked), 6:53.
KM—Ekolu Watanabe 15 pass from Kainoa Sanchez (pass failed), 4:53.
KM—Maika’ike English 20 pass from Sanchez (Keliikoa kick), 1:30.
KK—FG Akahi 25, 0:15
*Note: All individual and team statistics complied by Robert Collias of The Maui News.