If the Kapolei Hurricanes needed a turning point this season, they may have reached it.
The ‘Canes made the most of their opportunity in California, earning a stunning 23-14 win over Downey, ranked No. 8 by the Long Beach Press-Telegram. The same poll has St. John Bosco at No. 1 and Long Beach Poly at No. 2.
The way Kapolei (2-2) overcame adversity is what makes the victory remarkable. With their starting quarterback out with injury, sophomore Noa Bailey stepped up with his finest performance, passing for 148 yards and a 33-yard touchdown to De’Zhaun Stribling. The 6-foot-3 slinger did not throw a pick, and with the home team within 17-14 in the fourth quarter, running back Zion-Jabez Robello scored the game-clinching TD on a 26-yard run.
Ezekiel Waiolama led Kapolei’s ground attack with 114 yards and a TD on 12 carries. The ‘Cane defense limited Downey quarterback Kijjon Foots to 13-for-36 passing for 188 yards.
“We got to the game after that,” Kapolei coach Darren Hernandez said. “They had a pretty good crowd and they’re a pretty good team. They’re very skilled. They’re fast and talented. Very technique-oriented. We just kind of wore them down physically. We ran the ball well on them. Our defense played a heck of a game. They had a fourth down at the 1 in the fourth quarter and we made a goal-line stand.”
The victory simply added to what has been a sweet experience in SoCal for the ‘Canes.
“We’re still here. We’ve had the most amazing time,” Hernandez said on Sunday night. “We got in on Thursday morning and we went to Downey High School. We practiced on their field, ate lunch at In-And-Out Burger, came back watched film, had team meetings. Then we had dinner at Golden Corral, and went to bed early.
“Friday, we went to Azusa Pacific University where Victor Santa Cruz coaches. He’s a former UH player. They gave us a campus tour, presentation time with academic counselors. It was just awesome. We had lunch at Chik-Fil-A.”
Then came the kickoff and victory. Instead of flying back home after the game, the team has stayed through the weekend.
“On Saturday morning, we went to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles. The Dinosaur Hall, the Age of Mammals, so many interesting things. We stayed there for several hours. The kids really enjoyed that. Then we went to the UCLA-Cincinnati game at the Rose Bowl. Because I know some of the coaches there, we got to go on the field with field passes before the game. Then we sat with some amazing seats. At the end of the game, there were fireworks. After the game, we went back to the buffet at Golden Corral,” Hernandez said.
“Today, we woke up early and went to Universal Studios all day, rode all the rides. Went shopping at City Walk. Tonight, we bought them 50 pizzas and they’re eating upstairs, swimming in the pool here at Embassy hotel. They have a great buffet in the morning. All the visiting teams that come to play UCLA come here. They know how to accommodate football teams.
“We’re not done yet. Tomorrow morning, we’re going back to UCLA and attend their 9 a.m. practice, then a full tour of their facilities and the campus. Then shopping at an outlet mall, then a 6:30 flight back home,” Hernandez said. “Every day was planned out. I feel great.”
It was so fun, the ‘Canes would love to do this more often. At least some of them, anyway.
“The coaches want to do it every year, but if we plan it right and fundraise it right, we could do it every other year. It’s great exposure for the kids. We had scouts from many smaller colleges there that came,” Hernandez said.
Kapolei (2-2, 0-0 OIA Open) 6 3 7 7 — 23
Downey (1-2, 0-0 San Gabriel Valley) 0 0 8 6 — 14
KAP—De’Zhaun Stribling 33 pass from Noa Bailey (kick failed)
KAP—Micah Fonoti FG 28
KAP—Ezekiel Waiolama 4 run (Fonoti kick)
DOW—Brandon Hodge 12 pass from Kijjon Foots (Lawrence Joseph pass from Foots)
DOW—Hodge 11 pass from Foots (conversion failed)
KAP—Zion-Jabez Robello 26 run (Fonoti kick)
RUSHING—Kapolei: Waiolama 12-114, Z. Robello 5-49, Sinai-Taheed Robello 1-8, Dustin Lino-Adkins 1-3, Bailey 1-19, Mason Gomez 1-(-2). Downey: Foots 7-55, Malcolm Perry 12-49, Jaden Allen 8-32.
PASSING—Kapolei: Bailey 9-16-0-148, Landan Shove 0-1-1-0
Downey: Foots 13-36-188-0.
RECEIVING—Kapolei: Ikari Stokes 4-75, Stribling 4-53, Waiolama 1-20. Downey: Hodge 7-113, Danny Ruiz 2-43, Joseph 2-23, Noah Skobis 1-6, Dillon Laurier 1-3.