Pearl City’s offensive game plan was ineffective in the first half Friday against visiting Kalaheo.
The ground-and-pound approach, led by running back Alii Gaspar, did the trick in the second.
Gaspar rushed eight times for 98 yards and a touchdown in the third quarter alone as host Pearl City surged to a 34-13 victory over Kalaheo in an OIA Division II game.
Gaspar scored on a 7-yard run up the middle to put the Chargers ahead 19-13 with 8:04 left in the third quarter and accounted for all 52 yards on the drive on four rushes.
“The passing wasn’t working, so we started running,” said Gaspar, a junior. “The O-line did great tonight. They started opening up the gaps in the third quarter.”
On the first snap of the Mustangs’ next possession, a shotgun snap from the 16-yard line was low and got past quarterback Isaiah Akiu. The ball was knocked around a bit and wound up rolling out the back of the end zone for a safety and a 21-13 Pearl City lead.
“We missed two of the extra points so that made up for the extra points,” Pearl City coach Robin Kami said.
The Chargers added 34- and 31-yard field goals by Landon Chang and a 15-yard touchdown run by Victor Atkins in the fourth quarter.
Pearl City forced Kalaheo to punt on its four other second-half possessions. For the game, the Chargers allowed only 74 yards of total offense.
“It was the tale of two halves here, but we’ll be better,” Kalaheo coach Darrell Poole said.
Gaspar finished with 20 carries for 154 yards, while quarterback Makana Canyon was 13-for-23 for 149 yards for the Chargers.
The Mustangs’ defense appeared to wear down in the second half, but Poole said it was more his team not executing.
“You could see our coaches going crazy on the sidelines. We watched film enough times to put them in position to make plays and we had mental breakdowns,” he said. “Take nothing away from Pearl City, they had a great running game, but we could have slowed them down if we didn’t have mental breakdowns on defense.”
The first half, which ended in a 13-13 tie, featured pick-6s and touchdown passes by both teams.
Pearl City (2-2, 2-1) scored on Herbert Hallers’ 55-yard interception return and Canyon’s 23-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Cruz-Amerperosa.
“All of us were doing our assignments and the whole defense set me up in a good position,” said Hallers, a senior, who injured his right knee on the first play of the second half and did not return. “I was just able to read the quarterback when he threw the ball. I saw nothing but green in front of me and I just took advantage of the opportunity.”
The scoring pass from Canyon to Cruz-Amerperosa came with just 43 seconds left before halftime.
“Any time you can score right before the half, it’s a momentum builder for the second half,” Kami said.
Kalaheo (0-4, 0-3) scored on Akiu’s 6-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Neufeldt and Bryson Johnson’s 65-yard interception return before halftime.
The Mustangs rotated Akiu and Neufeldt at quarterback. Akiu was the passer and Neufeldt the runner.
Neufeldt rushed seven times for 18 yards and caught five passes for 50. He also played on defense. Akiu threw for 53 yards.