Keenan McCaddy has never been in a high school championship game.
He looked ready for the part on Friday night, hauling in a 36-yard pass on fourth-and-22 to keep the potential game-winning drive alive. On the next snap, the 6-foot-4 two-way playmaker came through with a 56-yard touchdown, the fourth scoring strike of the night for quarterback Taylor Malloe. Just like that, 27 unanswered points by Moanalua in a wild 27-21 win over Roosevelt.
“Coach (Vince Nihipali) is proud of us. We came together as a family and he’s proud of us,” McCaddy said.
Moanalua (5-1, 4-1) sealed a berth in the OIA Division I title game. Roosevelt (1-4, 1-3) came so close to sending the division into further chaos in the standings. A win by the Rough Riders would have opened another door for the four other teams chasing Moanalua, trying to carve out one of those two playoff spots.
“That’s a tough, tough Roosevelt team. They got dudes. They’re a matchup problem for everybody,” Nihipali said. “The fact that our boys continually battle, no matter if we’re down three touchdowns, they keep showing me they’ve got mental toughness. They feed off the defense.”
Na Menehune trailed 21-0 as Roosevelt played, perhaps, its finest half of the season. Defense and special teams gave the home team a major edge early on. Those two phases turned the other way in the second half as it was Moanalua with a blocked punt, and Roosevelt with a punt snap over the head of its punter.
Halftime was about recalibrating.
“We talked about playing together, finishing hard and putting it in perspective. If we didn’t come together as a team, this might be our last game,” McCaddy said. “We never get down on each other, just have to play as a team.”
Nihipali saw the Boise State commit talking with the team during halftime.
“When I got there, Keenan was talking to the team. I got there, and then Blayze (Sumiye) talked to them and I walked away. Sometimes, it’s good for the kids to hear from each other,” Nihipali said.
Sumiye, a state wrestling champion, had four of his team’s five sacks. With Roosevelt throwing the ball on most downs, it was on the front seven to change momentum for Moanalua.
“We have to claw at this thing one play at a time, chop the tree down,” Nihipali said. “As long as we score, we’re going to be fine.”
“Honestly, our pressure finally started getting home,” McCaddy said.
Moanalua got a 97-yard touchdown pass from Malloe to Jayce Bareng to begin the third quarter.
“He just knows how to roll with stuff. He’s hard to bring down,” Nihipali said of Bareng, who bounced off a tackler and went into blur mode down the sideline for the score. “He reminds me a lot of Barry Sanders, who just knows how to roll with stuff. He’s hard to bring down.”
Roosevelt still came up with two goal-line stands in the third, but after Malloe connected with Andy Canencia for a 22-yard TD pass, the Rough Riders were wobbly.
Malloe’s 30-yard TD toss to Bareng staggered Roosevelt, which still led 21-19 with 5:38 left.
Once McCaddy returned to the game on offense — he had some snaps at wide receiver early and was double teamed. On Moanalua’s final drive, Nihipali had offensive coordinator Jaymason Lee move the versatile senior inside.
“I never really know. It’s kind of what the team needs,” said McCaddy, a commit to Boise State.
His post route on fourth-and-forever (22 yards) found the soft spot of Roosevelt’s zone defense deep down the middle.
“I ran that route and (Malloe) got it there over the DBs and it worked,” he said.
“Just outdo that free safety. He ran a post-corner almost like a deep out,” Nihipali said.
The defensive back was there with McCaddy 15 to 20 yards downfield, but instead of making a safe play, he went for the pick. McCaddy’s length and vertical won, and he went the rest of the distance untouched.
“Good placement. Our quarterback put it where it had to be. (The defensive back) made a good play on the ball. I think it was good,” McCaddy said.
Boise State is recruiting him as a hybrid defensive player, and in Moanalua’s scheme, he was the single safety on many snaps. Tall and rangy with sticky hands. When Roosevelt brought no extra help, Moanalua capitalized.
“When I was in (earlier), most of the time it was double coverage,” McCaddy said. “You just run, catch it and run. But I knew I couldn’t go crazy with a celebration. That’s what I did in the Aiea game.”
Once Moanalua had its 27-21 lead with 2 minutes to go, McCaddy had no time to rest. He was back at safety as Roosevelt tried to march to victory.
“Of course, you’re going to be tired after a long play, but we want to finish what we started,” he said.
>> Roosevelt amassed seven sacks, including three by another Boise State commit, linebacker Kaeo Akana.
>> Malloe finished with 343 passing yards (22-for-44) with one interception.
>> Moanalua intercepted Kayman Lewis four times, including two by Dominic Tisaloa.
>> The 86 total combined pass attempts kept the game clock stopped much of the night, but penalties were even more numerous than they were in the Kahuku-Mililani game recently. Moanalua was flagged 19 times on Friday. Roosevelt drew 18 flags.
“When I learned Robert (Victor) was the head ref, I warned the kids all week that they will call everything. And they did,” Nihipali said. “He’s the best guy, he calls it and expects a clean game.”
>> Malloe’s spectacular second half led to a 343-yard night, which still doesn’t rank among the 10 biggest single-game passing yardage list in school history.
>> Bareng finished with nine receptions for 149 yards.
>> Linebacker/wide receiver/long snapper Kamu Kaaihue of Roosevelt had eight catches for 87 yards in a gritty performance.
>> Moanalua finished with six rushing yards as a team. Roosevelt had minus-47, including a loss of 38 yards on the botched punt snap in the second half.
At Ticky Vasconcellos Stadium
Moanalua (5-1, 4-1) 0 0 13 14 — 27
Roosevelt (1-4, 1-3) 0 21 0 0 — 21
ROOS—Kalua Nahale 11 pass from Kayman Lewis (Micaiah Garan kick)
ROOS—Jayden Gaopoa-Montgomery 4 punt block return (Garan kick)
ROOS—Kamu Kaaihue 7 pass from Lewis (Garan kick)
MOA—Jayce Bareng 97 pass from Taylor Malloe (Alex Heim kick)
MOA—Andy Canencia 22 pass from Malloe (kick failed)
MOA—Bareng 30 pass from Malloe (pass failed)
MOA—Keenan McCaddy 56 pass from Malloe (Bareng pass from Malloe)
JV—Moanalua 38, Roosevelt 2.
RUSHING—Moa: Cameron Johnson 7-15, Malloe 8-(-25), Ryson Lum 3-15, Kindred Malakai Park 3-3, Bareng 1-(-2). Roos: Kai He 2-5, Kaeo Akana 3-2, Kayman Lewis 9-(-16), Landen Kalani 4-0,
PASSING—Moa: Malloe 22-44-1-343. Roos: Kayman Lewis 22-42-3-217.
RECEIVING—Moa: Jayce Bareng 9-149, Isaac Ishikawa 1-(-2), Andy Canencia 4-52, Gabe Wells 4-35, Johnson 1-5, Park 1-12, McCaddy 2-92. Roos: George Matsunaga 6-72, Christian Aarona 4-34, Jayden Gaopoa-Montgomery 1-6, Kalua Nahale 1-11, Kamuela Kaaihue 8-87, Chase Aguinaldo 1-5, Kalani 1-2