The Kailua Surfriders put up points for the first time in 2019 on Friday night.
What they wouldn’t have done for a point or two more in a 19-18 loss to Moanalua at Alex Kane Stadium.
Kailua (0-3, 0-2 OIA Division I), coming off shutout losses to Punahou (40-0) and Leilehua (14-0), showed plenty of promise against a team that was coming off a signature win — Na Menehune beat ‘Iolani for the first time ever on a walk-off field goal last week.
Junior quarterback Cameron Friel (6-4, 205), a transfer from Saint Louis at midyear 2018-19 — and younger brother to three Kailua football alums — put up his first points as a Surfrider with three touchdowns, two to Kamryn Kahoonei. But he also tossed three interceptions and lost a fourth-quarter fumble.
“There’s more of a trusting, with the offensive line and receivers and everybody being on the same page,” Kailua coach Joseph Wong said. “Because there was breakdowns against Punahou and Leilehua, here and there, here and there. Today at least they were on the same page. It worked a lot. We threw the ball, we ran the ball, and we made a lot of great plays out there on the football field. A lot of big plays. We had quite a few of those through the course of the game.”
The Surfriders took the lead three times, and lost it three times. Kailua collected five turnovers (including two interceptions by defensive back Elijah Pittman) from Moanalua, but gave back four.
Kailua dropped Moanalua quarterback RJ Javar for a loss five times, including a couple right off the bat.
But, painfully, the Surfriders committed turnovers in Moanalua territory on their final two possessions. Friel lost a fumble to Moanalua linebacker Jett Tanigawa on a keeper from the Moanalua 24, just a few plays after a brilliant 57-yard gain on a Friel scramble (plus a questionable no-call on a possible late hit out of bounds).
After a three-and-out by Moanalua, Friel then got the Surfers into Moanalua territory with under three minutes left, completing balls to Raynen Ho-Mook and Kahoonei.
But he threw between a couple of receivers on the next ball, as Aukai Grace came down with it for Moanalua at the Na Menehune 29. Kailua didn’t have enough timeouts to stop Moanalua from taking a knee a few times. Ballgame.
Friel finished 10-for-24 for 135 yards passing for Kailua, his most to date, plus 85 yards on the ground.
“We had our opportunities. Defense played, offense played,” Wong said. “We just made one too many mistakes in the end, when that’s the most crucial point in the game. Had we made it earlier in the game, it might’ve been a different story. But towards the end, that’s when you can’t put the ball on the ground or give it back to them. Especially after we stopped them three downs and we get it back.”
Kailua took an 18-13 lead to open the third quarter on Kahoonei’s 65-yard catch-and-run from Friel, the second time Kamryn and Cameron linked up for a score on the night.
But what happened next would prove to be crucial.
The Surfriders went for 2 on the extra point after some struggles on their first two PATs. And the ballcarrier was ruled just short by the officials.
“We missed one, and then the second one just was the snap and the holder tried to get it there, he tried his best,” Wong said of the PAT struggles. “But the snap was bad. And then, we tried to go for it (on the third TD) to get the points on the board. (The officials) took so long to get there. From here (the Kailua sideline) the line surged and they were in the end zone. He was on top of them in the end zone. By the time they get there, everyone’s pushing them back down. … I’m not in the end zone so I can’t see, but from my angle, it looks like he was in.”
Be that as it may, instead of going up 20-13, Kailua led by just five. And when Javar went 5-for-5 on the game’s deciding drive at the end of the third, setting up Darius Johnson’s 1-yard plunge, Kailua’s missed 2 at the other end loomed larger. Na Menehune were without last week’s hero kicker, Griffin Motas (injured mid-game), and his backup, Lawsen Lee (ejected for allegedly throwing a punch on the opening kickoff). Kailua stopped Moanalua’s 2-point pass attempt short, but Na Menehune still led 19-18.
“Coach Wong, hat’s off to him, he’s doing a phenomenal job,” Moanalua coach Savaii Eselu said. “He and I are sharing the same thing. We’re shooting ourselves in the foot. We gotta clean it up. But when your number’s called, you gotta be ready to go.”
Kailua hosts Radford next week in the second game of a three-game homestand.