The red-clad crowd stood, clapped and cheered well after the final whistle.
The respect all around Radford’s stadium was obvious on Friday night. Kalani earned that this season, a banner year that came to an end at 6-4 with a 28-14 loss to Pearl City on Friday night in the OIA White semifinals — the Falcons’ first-ever league playoff game.
“What do you say, it’s the first time at Kalani High School in 55 years that we went to the postseason,” Falcons coach Greg Taguchi said. “Tremendous accomplishment for (our players), they have a lot to be proud of, this year’s team. It’s just sad that it comes to an end, ’cause these guys, I enjoyed working with them this year. It’s sad that it comes to an end and we don’t have another two weeks to go (until the White championship game).”
This year, Kalani set a school record for victories, quarterback Noah Brum set the Kalani single-game passing record (445) and the Falcons put up their most points in a game ever (63 in a defeat of Roosevelt).
The Falcons came so close, agonizingly close, to their first ever state tournament berth.
That went instead to Pearl City, which won for the seventh time in eight games.
Still, it was quite the slew of feats for a program that was mired in misery — two combined wins from 2000 until 2009 — just a few years ago. The addition of the Lee brothers, Cal and Ron, as defensive and offensive coordinators surely helped, but it was a total (and ongoing) rebuilding project.
Kalani, winner of four straight heading into the playoffs, just could not replicate its 40-8 regular-season defeat of Pearl City back in August. Brum and his talented receivers were kept in check by the Chargers’ D. Brum was not picked but was held to 186 yards passing and Kalani had its season-low in points.
“We knew they were a well-improved team,” Taguchi said. “I always knew they were a good team from the first time we played them this year and they would come out a whole lot better than they were that first game. They didn’t do anything that much different that we didn’t expect. We expected everything they did, but they came out to play. They just had put it together.”
Senior Brandon Roberts was Brum’s top target — and only real target on this night — going for 98 yards on nine catches. The rest of the Falcons had nine grabs, and no other player had more than 46 yards.
“Their coverage took away some deep balls for us that we normally hit,” Taguchi said. “We had some opportunities at times. But they took that away. We had a couple drops early on and we couldn’t get things going in the first half. We had a couple three and outs and that put pressure on the defense to be on the field for a long time.”
A late Pearl City mistake — a bad snap resulted in its punter’s knee being down when he caught the ball — allowed Kalani one last gasp at the Chargers’ 19, down by 14 with under five minutes left. The Falcons advanced the ball to the 2, but fumbled away their last chance on fourth down to get within a single score. Pearl City recovered and ran the clock out.
Brum is a senior. His two more productive receivers, Roberts and Trevor Yamashita, are seniors. But there is a winning culture now at Kalani, and that seems here to stay.