Nanakuli wrapped up an undefeated regular season on Friday night by holding off Kalani for a 48-35 victory at Kaiser Stadium.
As the OIA Division II regular-season champs, the Golden Hawks (8-0) get a rematch with the Falcons (4-4), the playoffs’ No. 4 seed, in two weeks.
It is Nanakuli’s first championship of any kind in high school football since 1983, when it won the OIA and lost to Saint Louis in the Prep Bowl.
But the Golden Hawks want more. They need two more wins to take the OIA D-II overall title, and they need one more victory to advance to the state tournament.
“We made a lot of mistakes,” said Golden Hawks offensive tackle Lyle Tuiloma, who is going to Colorado on a scholarship next season. “We were sloppy and can’t be thinking about next week or beyond that. We have to think about what we can do to play better and keep the focus on that. We can’t get big-headed and act like champs. We need to keep our heads down and be humble and play our best. Play Nanakuli football.”
Kalani got as close as six points, 41-35, when Ace Faumui scored from 4 yards out with 2:38 to go.
But on the Falcons’ onside kick try, Nanakuli’s Randy Manewa snared a high-bounding ball and returned it 51 yards all the way to the Falcons’ 1, and three players later, quarterback Kale Kanehailua snuck in for the final touchdown, the last of his three on the night.
“Who knows what could have happened if we recovered that onside kick,” Kalani coach Greg Taguchi said. “It’s a tribute to the character of these kids the way they went on fighting to the end.”
Makaila Haina-Horswill got Nanakuli off to a fast start, running up the middle untouched for an 80-yard touchdown on the game’s second play from scrimmage.
The senior running back was just getting warmed up. He added TD runs of 35 and 71 yards and finished with 211 rushing yards.
With 21 unanswered points in the second quarter, the Nanakuli lead ballooned to 28-7. Alexcio Meyers, who was everywhere on defense, intercepted a pass, leading to one touchdown, and Nakanaela Kipi returned an interception 50 yards for another score.
In the third quarter, while trailing 41-21, Faumui started the Falcons’ comeback with an 88-yard TD romp to make it a two possession game with 9:09 left.
Faumui, who used his strength and speed equally, finished with 280 yards rushing and four touchdowns on 32 carries. He also ran the offense out of the wildcat after starting quarterback Tyler Ching went down with an ankle injury in the second half.
“I’m not disappointed at all,” Faumui said. “They’re the No. 1 team and I was glad to see that we made it to (within) six points. I’m pretty sure (next week) will be a good game.”
When asked if he was worried when the game got so close, Golden Hawks coach Keala Watson said, “Yeah. We’ve got to learn to finish the season. We’ve (players, coaches) invested so much into this that it would be a waste to just throw it all away. Kalani is going to practice and get better this week and you can’t count them out.”
At Kaiser Stadium
Nanakuli (8-0, 8-0) 7 27 7 7 — 48
Kalani (4-4, 4-4) 7 7 7 14 — 35
NANAKULI—Makaila Haina-Horswill 80 run (Clifford Cunningham kick)
KALANI—Juwan Bohannon 29 pass from Tyler Ching (Marc Teshima kick)
NANAKULI—Kale Kanehailua 3 run (Cunningham kick)
NANAKULI—Haina-Horswill 35 run (Cunningham kick)
NANAKULI—Nakanaela Kipi 50 interception return (Cunningham kick)
KALANI—Ace Faumui 69 run (Teshima kick)
NANAKULI—Kanehailua 2 run (kick failed)
KALANI—Faumui 6 run (Teshima kick)
NANAKULI—Haina-Horswill 71 run (Cunningham kick)
KALANI—Faumui 88 run (Teshima kick)
KALANI—Faumui 4 run (Teshima kick)
NANAKULI—Kanehailua 1 run (Cunningham kick)
RUSHING—Nanakuli: Haina-Horswill 15-211, Kanehailua 11-57, Randy Manewa 1-7, Brandon Sevellino 1-0. Kalani: Faumui 32-280, Kai Reed 5-15, Blaise Manabe 6-11, Ching 1-4, Quinn Griffiths 1-1, Brandon Nahina 3-(minus-1), Tyson Tagami 1-(minus-3).
PASSING—Nanakuli: Kanehailua 11-28-0—118. Kalani: Ching 6-12-2—56, Griffiths 1-2-0—4.
RECEIVING—Nanakuli: Cunningham 6-48, Sevellino 2-56, Haina-Horswill 2-10, Isain Wong 1-4. Kalani: Bohannon 2-33, Reed 2-18, Manabe 2-9, Faumui 1-0.
Junior varsity—Nankuli 21, Kalani 12