There’s two seconds left on the clock. The coach trusts you to kick a field goal from 55 yards out. If you make it, you’re a hero. If you miss it, the drama continues in a deadlocked game.
So it was a very big moment for Hilo senior kicker Keanu Keolanui, who made a 47-yarder earlier in the game. He put everything he had to it and then he watched the ball steam toward the center of the goalposts. His first thought was that he nailed it, so he started to celebrate. But then a bit of doubt crept in when he saw that it hit the crossbar. False alarm. He watched it go through the posts and bounce to the ground, giving the Vikings a 20-17 victory over ‘Iolani for the Division I title of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Football State Championships on Friday at Aloha Stadium.
— Jason Kaneshiro (@jasonkaneshiro) November 30, 2019
“So many things were going through my head when I made that field goal,” said Keolanui, whose 55-yarder tied an all-division state tournament record. “Football isn’t my sport. I play soccer. To win this my senior year for my team, it’s such a good feeling. I was nervous. It’s the longest field goal I ever attempted in a game. We wanted to show that the Big Island isn’t (overrated) and that we can play and put on a show for everybody, too.”
Added quarterback Kyan Miyasato, who threw for 289 yards and was overwhelmed by tears afterward: “It means everything. I’m just so happy. It shows that Big Island football is not a joke and we can come out here and ball if you work hard enough. It doesn’t matter the team and it can be any island.”
To make it possible for Keolanui to succeed, Miyasato passed to receiver Kilohana Haasenritter for a 12-yard gain that brought the ball from the 50 to the ‘Iolani 38 with two seconds left — just enough field position and time.
Hilo (14-0) now has two D-I state titles in the last three years. The Vikings met — and lost to — Waipahu in the final a year ago and beat Damien in the title game in 2017.
“They (‘Iolani) came out stronger and faster than us,” Hilo linebacker Kalen White said about the Raiders’ 17-3 halftime lead. “At halftime, coach (Kaeo Drummondo) gave us a really good talk that it’s not over. He told us how we always respond to adversity and always come right back.”
About Keolanui’s kick, White said, “We all love him and trust him. We knew he could make it.”
‘Iolani’s Wailoa Manuel — who hit on a 45-yard field goal in the first quarter — missed from 45 yards earlier in the fourth quarter in an attempt to break the 17-all tie.
White, who had 10 tackles in the game, was part of an immense defensive effort by the Vikings in the second half. They held ‘Iolani to 45 yards in the final 30 minutes after giving up 108 yards to the Raiders in the first two periods.
“We had a light box (in the first half),” White said. “We made adjustments starting in the second quarter with six men in the box. We handled all the inside runs and made them (try to) push it outside. We also put on a a lot of pressure from our ends.”
That intense pass rush made it difficult for ‘Iolani to get anything through the air. All told in the contest, Hilo outgained the Raiders 388 to 153.
Mana Price, Joshua Niro and Kainalu Lewis (nine tackles) were among those who also came through with big defensive performances for the Vikings.
“I can’t ask for a better group of young men,” Drummondo said. “They do so much behind the scenes that nobody sees. I’m overjoyed for them. So many emotions.”
‘Iolani (10-3), the owner of eight D-II state championships, is now 0-2 in D-I state title games. The Raiders were going for their first state crown since 2014.
“Hilo came to play,” Raiders coach Wendell Look said. “In the second half, they really shut us down and found their own rhythm on offense. We just didn’t get it done.”