Waianae Out Runs Baldwin at State Championships, 21-6
By Rodney S. Yap
Waianae High School used its prolific ground game to upend Baldwin, 21-6, in opening-round action of the First Hawaiian Bank/Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division I State Championships at Hawaiian Airlines Field at Aloha Stadium Friday night.
Waianae, the third-place team from the Oahu Interscholastic Association, rushed for 229 of its 290 yards of total offense. Giving the ball to eight different runners, including Sacco Kade Ambrocio who opened the game’s scoring with a 9-yard touchdown run and Javen Towne who sealed the Seariders’ victory with a 19-yard touchdown run and the only score of the second half.
The Seariders improved to 9-3 on the year and 7-5 all-time in seven state-tournament appearances. It was their first state tournament since losing in the 2010 title game.
Waianae, sixth in the Hawaiian Electric Division I Power Rankings, will play No. 2 Kahuku (11-0) on Nov. 13 in one of two semifinal games at the stadium. The 4:30 p.m. game is a rematch of a regular-season meeting on Oct. 3 at Aloha Stadium, won by the Red Raiders, 30-0.
Defending state champion Mililani trounced Hilo, 62-18, in Friday’s other first-round game at Aloha Stadium. The Trojans improved to 10-2 and will face second-seeded St. Louis in the late (7 p.m.) semifinal game next week at Aloha Stadium. The Vikings capped their season 7-5.
In the Division II state tournament, Lahainaluna hosts Kaimuki in a 7 p.m. game Saturday night at the Sue D. Cooley Stadium. The game will be broadcast live on Pacific Media Group’s own KMVI 900 AM, beginning with the pre-game show at 6:45 p.m.
“They’re a great team. I thought our team went hard, we played with a lot of heart. It would have been good to have come out with a win but we played hard,” said Baldwin’s four-year varsity linebacker Kawena Alo-Kaonohi.
The Bears scored their only points on a 33-yard touchdown pass from Chayce Akaka to his brother Jonovan-Taje Akaka, with 55 seconds remaining in the first quarter. The one-handed grab in the end zone was good enough to be recognized as “The Play of The Game” by OC16 television, who broadcast the game live across the state.
Baldwin, the Maui Interscholastic League champion, came into the game ranked 10th in the state according to ScoringLive.com. The Bears, who finished the season 8-4, managed 226 yards of total offense, but committed four first-half turnovers. It was the 13th state-tournament appearance in school history for the Bears and first since 2013. Baldwin fell to 5-14 in the state tournament.
In addition to the turnovers, the Bears were penalized 10 times for 87 yards to the Seariders’ 7 for 55.
“Our offense had its challenges, but they fought all the way to the end, they never quit, and they kept trying to the last snap,” said Alo-Kaonohi, who had six tackles, including 2.5 behind the line of scrimmage for minus-6 yards.
Defensive back Jac Keoni Yoruw and linebacker Aloalii Laga led the Bears’ defense with seven tackles apiece. Kaohu Pua’a had 6.5 tackles, including two for minus-5 yards.
Bears’ sophomore QB Chayce Akaka finished the game 12 of 30 for 163 yards and two interceptions. He connected with brother Jonovan-Taje nine times for a game-high 139 yards.
Baldwin started the second half by losing the ball on downs at the Waianae 36. On the ensuing possession, the Seariders executed their final scoring drive – marching 64 yards on eight rushing plays – with Towne’s touchdown at the 6:04 mark in the third period.
The Seasiders second score of the game that made it 14-0 with 2:36 left in the first quarter came on a 21-yard touchdown reception by Royce Carrick from Jaren Ulu.
“Well from the beginning of the season I thought of playing hard on every play, because it’s my senior year and it’s going to go by quick. It’s tough to lose my last game, and tough to lose like this, but I gave it my all and I tried my best. I tried to give 110 percent on every play.
“At the beginning of the season we started off really slow, and towards the middle of the season we starting charging. I thought we could go a little farther than this, but it’s hard luck, we came out with a loss. But again, I thought everyone played hard. It would have been nice to play Kahuku next weekend and be the next Baldwin team to make it to the semifinals.”
In 2011 Keelan Ewaliko helped Baldwin beat Farrington on Maui to advance to the semifinals, before losing to Punahou 35-0 at Aloha Stadium..
Following the team’s only MIL defeat this year, a 3-0 loss to Maui High on Sept. 11, the Bears reeled off six consecutive victories, including a lopsided 56-7 rout of defending champion Maui High for the 2015 Division I Championship title.
“I really liked the way coach Pohai (Lee) opened up our offense, and my linebackers coach, Coach Joe (Siofele), he’s a very motivational guy and I really look up to those guys. I’d like to thank the coaches for everything they’ve done for me and for this team.”
The team grew up fast, Alo-Kaonohi said, particularly the 29 seniors, following the season-opening 53-0 shellacking it suffered to Kamehameha Kapalama at Aloha Stadium in mid-August.
After that game Coach Lee implemented rules that reminded players that there was no “i” in team and held players accountable, including coming out of a game after committing a penalty.
“Coach Lee challenged some of the boys on this team, and showed them how to be a real man, and how to be responsible and help out each other. I think it worked, it toughened up this team.”