The upward path and the football spirit is palpable this season for Waipahu, which is the perfect example of an up-and-down program through the years.
The Marauders have bounced between Division I and Division II. Little to no success in the upper tier is often followed by solid play in the lower conference.
Well, after a few years of getting beaten up in Division I, Waipahu is back down and in the middle of a hotly contested Oahu Interscholastic Association D-II race. The Marauders (4-1, 3-1) rolled to a 38-0 win over McKinley on Saturday night in Aiea.
The Tigers (0-4, 0-3), another team which came down from D-I this season, is on a different and longer path upward. But there is belief that things will get better, and they showed it on the field Saturday in the second half.
Now would be a really good time to see how these two teams did against each other in the last two seasons.
OK, here we go: Waipahu won 47-2 last season and 28-12 in 2014. Those two victories represent two of McKinley’s 20 straight losses.
It’s only a matter of time before head coach Sam Cantiberos and his McKinley troops get a win. They gave the Marauders everything they had in the second half and played them fairly evenly, allowing just 6 of those 38 points.
Plus, things work in cycles. You only have to go back to 2013 to find the last time McKinley scored a victory over Waipahu — by a 36-15 count.
The Tigers’ size is there. The quarterback — Elyjah Badua — played hurt and still completed 14 of 19 passes. Linebacker/running back Frank Steffany gave it his all, making numerous tackles, including one for loss, and bursted up the middle for a 19-yard gain — the team’s biggest offensive play of the night.
Waipahu head coach Bryson Carvalho knew McKinley was coming at the Marauders hard in the second half.
“Yeah I did (notice),” he said. “We could see them making adjustments throughout the game. They brought their safeties in to cover our slots. They started loading the box, and then they were starting to send some pressure. They adjusted and slowed things down on us.”
And then, Carvalho said what every coach with human feelings would say.
“I feel for them.”
Hold on. Of course he does. The contending Waiphau squad this year is just one season removed from a 1-7 campaign of 2015. The only win? Against McKinley.
“I encourage them to keep their heads up and keep fighting,” Carvalho said about the Tigers. “They have potential and they have size.”
Here’s what Cantiberos offered about his team that, by much smaller steps than Waipahu, is on the way up: “We’ve got four games left and, as a coaching staff, we’re happy with our progress. Badua had a great game. After we situate our linemen when we have some time, he’s going to really shine. He hurt his back in the first quarter and he hung in there. He was hurting the whole game. He played tough tonight. I was very happy with him. And Frank (Steffany), he’s a leader who plays his heart out on every play. He’s going to be a good one.”
Going to be? Oh, a check at the roster shows he’s only a junior, but he plays like a senior. Coincidentally, he’s a transfer from Waipahu.
McKinley’s Fuamete Pita had the only sack on Waipahu quarterback Braden Amorozo, Steffany had a tackle for loss, and Leonard Phillip added an interception.
“We’re improving,” Steffany said. “We just gotta trust the process and we all gotta give a little bit more time for our team, but we’re getting there.”
Not that Waipahu (4-1, 3-1) is already “there,” but the Marauders — who are tied with Waialua (3-1,3-1) for second place in the OIA D-II race, just one game behind league-leading Pearl City (4-1, 4-0) — are close.
Carvalho said his team has not come through with a complete game yet.
Still, the Marauders looked solid, with a balanced attack (209 rushing yards, 221 passing). Amorozo threw two TD passes to AJ Contado and ran for another, and Alfred Failauga rushed for 86 yards.
Defensively, Lafo Seuli-Sanchez, Centennial Kulikefu (two sacks), Brent Micua (sack), Mariners Nagaseu (sack), Devin Roque Souza, Bryent Baptista (tackle for loss), Jared Marcelo (tackle for loss), Ian Yadao (tackle for loss) and Jeminae Solomua (tackle for loss) were among the stoppers holding the Tigers to zero rushing yards and 66 through the air.
“Waiaphu is a really, really great team,” McKinley’s Cantiberos said.
How far can the Marauders go in the OIA D-II, and if they can get that far, how far can they go in what is shaping up to be a highly competitive D-II state tournament?
“Coach was telling us to just believe, trust and love each other and if we stick together we can get through this game,” Failauga said. “In the long run, we’re going to come out as one team and keep on striving.”
Added offensive lineman Khaine Viliamu: “We peformed really well tonight and there are some things we need to work on. For the future, I hope we get stronger and stronger and never settle. We don’t want to be the same. We want to get better every day.”