Linebacker Jonathan Bilyeu took his ballhawking skills to another level on Friday night, recovering two fumbles and intercepting a pass in Kapaa’s 30-16 Division II football state final loss to Radford on Friday at Aloha Stadium.
He made life agonizingly difficult for the Rams (13-0) with those three plays in the first half that helped the Warriors build leads of 10-0 and 16-7.
If the Warriors had pulled it out, they would have become only the second team from the Neighbor Islands to win a state football title. Only King Kekaulike from Maui in 2006, in D-II, has done it previously.
The biggest of Bilyeu’s takeaways came in the second quarter, when he recovered a fumble and returned it 8 yards for a touchdown and that 16-7 advantage.
Earlier, the 5-foot-9, 180-pound senior recovered a fumble that led to Clifton Oliver‘s 45-yard field goal and a 10-0 lead.
Later, his interception of a Quintin Iriarte pass — caused in part by an intense pass rush by Trestin Alfiler — didn’t lead to more points.
Altogether on the wet day, Radford fumbled nine times, losing three of them. The other recovery for the Warriors was by Jason Hawthorne after a ball-popping hit by Sosaia Liki Koli.
Alfiler also had a spectacular game, finishing with 13 solo tackles and four assisted stops.
Bilyeu broke down in tears after the game, the final one of his football career. It was obvious that his emotion was due more to the team’s accomplishments than their demise in the title game.
“I’m proud of my team and what we did from the offseason until now,” he said in between deep, heartfelt sobs. “Radford was better than we expected on offense. And our offense couldn’t answer. I want to thank my team for all the hard work they put in this whole season.”
Head coach Phillip Rapozo and his Kauai Interscholastic Federation champion Warriors (9-1) are developing a taste for the postseason. A year ago, they made it to the semifinals. This year they took it a step further.
“We want to come back,” he said. “We want to be here every year. We will continue to build.”
Kapaa, which hadn’t allowed a single point in six league games and had only given up 12 points in nine previous games (a safety, a field goal, a defensive touchdown and an extra point), wound up yielding 42 points in 10 games (4.2 per contest).
Going into the game, the only points scored against the Warriors defensive unit had been a field goal in a preseason game by Lahainaluna. Radford, however, scored thee offensive touchdowns, three extra points and a field goal for 24 points, boosting the total points given up by Kapaa’s defense this season to 27 (2.7 per game).
“We got beat by a good football team,” Rapozo said. “All the talk of Radford and how good they were was not hype.”
Rapozo also offered some thoughts on Bilyeu’s inspired performance: “It was awesome what he did for the team. He took that fumble in for a score. He played his heart out in the last game of his senior year. I’m so proud of him.”