Back in the Division II state final, Kapaa looks to finally break through

Kapaa running back Kian Rapozo returns the ball as he is chased by Hawaii Prep punter Mason Hunt during the first half of a D-II state semifinal. Top seed Kapaa won 51-0 and will play Kamehameha-Maui for the state title. Photo by Stephen Erler/Special to the Star-Advertiser.

Kapaa extended an impressive streak in a 51-0 win over Hawaii Prep in Friday’s D-II semifinal of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Football State Championships.

Next week, the Warriors will look to snap a much more important one.

“Our boys, there are some boys that played in 2019. so they know what the disappointment is like. That helped us.” Kapaa head coach Mike Tresler said of past playoff experience. “We got a young team. This team is bonding well. Special group of kids. They’re working their butts off.”

PHOTO GALLERY: Kapaa vs. Hawaii Prep

The team has made appearances in six consecutive HHSAA playoffs. In each of those appearances, the Warriors have enjoyed success each year in their opening game. But year-after-year, the team has failed to advance past week two of the tournament. Kapaa will now have a chance to snap that 0-6 game losing streak, four of which came in D-II title games.

Shades of the NFL’s week 13 matchup between the New England Patriots and the Buffalo Bills could be seen Friday afternoon at Skippa Diaz Stadium. Affected by high winds, both teams committed to the run early. Kapaa was the more successful of the two teams in adapting to that strategy.

The Warriors ran the ball 44 times in the win, racking up 251 of combined rushing yards. Quarterback Kapono Na-o stood at the head of the rushing attack, leading the team with 60 ground yards on 13 carries, with Jericho Castro next in line with 46 yards on eight carries.

Solomone Malafu joined the Warrior rushers with 22 yards, but made his true impact with his versatility. Playing in all three phases of the game, Malafu finished with a rushing touchdown, an interception, and a two-point play conversion.

“As a team, we did very well,” Malafu said. “We just have to play hard. We won the first game, now it’s on to the next.”

Hawaii Prep tried to keep up with the Kapaa runners early, but with the Ka Makani runners stymied, the team turned instead to quarterback Tre Walker. Walker responded by completing 11-23 passes for 67 yards, but also threw a pair of interceptions.

Kapaa’s game plan was on display early, coming out with a 10-play drive consisting of all run plays. The three-minute drive ended with Rapozo’s 2-yard touchdown carry. The next drive saw the Warriors’ tentative attempt to open up the aerial attack, but the drive finished the same way as its predecessor, with Tafea’s 11-yard scoring run.

As Kapaa opened up the scoring, Hawaii Prep wasn’t having the same success. Three-and-out after three-and-out, Ka Makani was continuously shut down. HPA wouldn’t convert a first down until the final four minutes of the opening half. Suddenly, one first down led to another, and another, as the passing attack began to find its groove. The promising drive met an abrupt end, as a 9-yard sack led to back-to-back incompletions.

To make matters worse, the ensuing punt sailed over the head of the punter and wound up on the HPA 22 yard line. In a testament to the fickle nature of momentum, Kapaa’s Malafu took the wildcat snap and made his way into the end zone for a crushing 22-yard touchdown carry. Malafu was called upon again on the ensuing two-point try, carrying the ball over the goal line.

The second half showed no signs of improvement for Hawaii Prep, as evidenced by their first drive. After a three-and-out, HPA’s punt was blocked. Defensive end Connor Kitamura was there to make the recovery in the end zone for a Warriors score. Kapaa’s big guy moment continued, as defensive lineman Sepuloni Tafea crashed over the goal line for a two-point carry.

Kapaa rolled on, as Na-o and Jaysten Pimental each tallied a rushing touchdown on the next two Warrior drives. Determined to at least put points on the board, Hawaii Prep set off on their longest drive of the game. On nine plays, Ka Makani drove down to as far as the Kapaa 15-yard line. HPA was again stymied at the last moment, as the Warriors’ Kala Valasco picked off Walker’s pass and returned it 72-yards to HPA territory to preserve the shutout.

“Whenever we don’t let the other team score, the coaches get us donuts,” Valasco said of his shutout-preserving play. “Just another thing that we work for.”

The defensive stop soon translated to points, as backup quarterback Nakoa Kimi connected with Tafea for a 7-yard touchdown toss to make it 51-0 and mercifully draw the game to an end.


  1. Stacey December 22, 2021 8:11 pm

    Passing game may be better the run game

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