Kailua entered a critical juncture of its season heading into Friday’s home matchup against visiting Buckeye Union from Arizona. The Surfriders were 1-4 heading into the game, and without much intel on the Hawks since they were an out-of-state opponent, coach Joseph Wong just wanted his players to focus on buying in as a team.
The Surfriders answered the call with a 58-6 pounding of the Hawks, a contest that the home team dominated in every area.
As the team started off the second half of its schedule with authority, Wong hopes it’s just the start of a major turnaround.
“I hope this is the beginning of them fully buying in,” he said. “I watched the film on offense, defense and special teams, and we’re our worst enemy.
“We talked about team goals during this week and sometimes as a coach, you can’t always, as they say, try to fit a square peg into a round hole. We talked about those goals and buying into those goals. If they can just buy in together, the only person that’s gonna stop them from achieving it is them.”
The Surfriders played like a team that took the message to heart on Friday night, with a relentless defense that swarmed the Hawks all night long. Even Kailua’s special teams made big plays on punt coverage, highlighted by Kainalu Kaopuiki‘s fumble recovery in the end zone in the fourth quarter.
“Buckeye Union, they come from a tough division in Arizona and they give a lot of people up there fits,” Wong said. “I hope this was the first step for us for buying into committing into executing and reaching our goals as a team. I think in all the facets of the game except kickoff, there were a lot of nice things done. But there’s also a lot of things that need to be corrected, and they understand that as well.”
On offense, quarterback Cameron Friel came out firing in the first half, completing seven of 12 passes for 208 yards and three touchdowns, despite some drops from his receivers. He finished 9-of-16 with 230 yards and added a 27-yard rushing score.
“We just came out knowing they’re a team from the mainland, we had to stay in our one and focus and play Kailua football,” Friel said. We just had to stick to our responsibilities.
“My coaches are always telling me to keep my composure and do what I gotta do to get us points. I just stayed relaxed, trusted my O-line, my receivers and things just went off from there.”
Kailua’s win over Buckeye Union boosts Oahu’s record against mainland teams to 8-0 for the season. Up 31-6 at halftime, the Surfriders were well on their way to victory. As the Hawks inserted backups in the fourth quarter, Kailua’s defense forced three more turnovers in that period alone.
Kailua now shifts its focus back to OIA Division I play, where it takes a trip to Aiea on Sept. 20. The Surfriders are right in the thick of the race to get into the OIA’s four-team playoff, and a win against Na Alii would go a long way in securing one of those spots.
Even after its 52-point victory in which its 58 points were the fourth most points the school has ever put up in a game, Wong knows there’s always room for improvement. Even after what was probably his team’s most complete performance of the year so far.
“Sometimes in a win, you don’t look at the negatives, but that’s what I’m for — to pick at everything,” he said. “At the same time, too, there’s praise. But then there’s also criticism because there’s a lot of things we could’ve done in the first quarter, first half that we didn’t capitalize on.
“For us as a coaching staff, we have to keep them humble and make sure that just because the score was like that, there was still a lot of mistakes out there on the football field.”