It was a fitting end to Kamehameha’s first win over Punahou in its last 11 tries.
Warriors running back Kanoa Shannon, the workhorse of the Kamehameha offense all season, scored his first rushing touchdown against an ILH opponent on carry No. 162 this season, scoring from 7 yards out with 2:10 remaining to ice Kamehameha’s 44-31 victory over Punahou on Friday night at Aloha Stadium.
Shannon, who finished with 86 yards on 28 carries, is averaging 24 carries a game against ILH foes. He has taken on tackler after tackler, pulled himself off the ground countless times, and persevered to come up with the biggest score of his career with the season on the line.
After finishing 0-4 in the ILH first round, the Warriors had lost 17 in a row when playing against either Saint Louis or Punahou. They had also been 1-43 since 1973 when giving up at least 31 points in a game.
Consider those streaks snapped.
Head coach Abu Ma’afala politely declined comment after the game, saying it was all about the kids.
For third-year starting quarterback Thomas Yam, who threw for 250 yards and four touchdowns without a turnover, it was his last chance to beat one of the other two ILH D-I powerhouses, and he finally got it done.
“It’s very meaningful to finally get a win against these guys,” said Yam, who completed 19 of 30 passes and also ran eight times for 51 yards. “We have to come together again like this tonight (next week).”
The No. 1-ranked Saint Louis Crusaders await, but the Warriors can at least celebrate a breakthrough win for at least one night.
On the other side, No. 4 Puanhou, which won a big game in California against Serra in September, had only lost to Saint Louis all season until Friday. Now, the Buffanblu’s season is suddenly over.
“We made too many mistakes and we just got to look ahead to the future,” Punahou coach Kale Ane said. “Now we just have to rebuild. (Kamehameha) played really well. (Yam) was back and he showed what a quality quarterback he is.”
The Warriors got big plays from numerous players. Receiver Skyler Ramos made two unbelievable catches on third down on the same drive to move the chains and ended the possession with a 14-yard TD late in the first half to give the Warriors a 17-14 lead at halftime.
Hoku Arias had two big stops behind the line of scrimmage in the second half, including one on Hale Motua’puaka on third down to force a punt.
Laakea Ane, who hadn’t caught a pass all season, caught two for touchdowns, including a 39-yarder on a fourth-and-1 call in the first quarter for the Warriors’ first score.
But the play of the game — and maybe the year — happened in the fourth quarter with Kamehameha ahead 30-24. The Warriors downed a punt at the Punahou 5, forcing Punahou quarterback Stephen Barber to throw a pass out of his own end zone.
Sophomore Ezra Evaimalo, coming off the end, jumped up as Barber attempted a pass and batted the ball in the air. He turned around and reached out, catching the ball in the end zone for a pick and a touchdown that put Kamehameha ahead 13.
It seemed to take the life out of the Punahou sideline.
“It’s every D-lineman’s dream to make a touchdown so I’m stoked,” Evaimalo said. “Our other lineman, Jonah Welch, that play happened to him twice. So I figured to watch the same thing. It happened and I did what I could.”
With the confidence of a win over Punahou, Kamehameha now gets a third crack at Saint Louis. The Warriors played the Crusaders as tough as anybody in state all season just two weeks ago, losing 23-12. It was the fewest points Saint Louis had scored all season.
“We start tomorrow already,” Evaimalo said. “We’re gonna be watching film. They’re a great team and it’s gonna be a good game no doubt, great competition.”