It was a long, slow, dark and quiet walk back to the locker room for the Kailua Surfriders after Saturday night’s 25-14 football loss to Aiea at their newly renamed Alex Kane Stadium.
Nobody said much. All eyes were downcast. Coach Joseph Wong’s head was staring straight down, and he seemed to be blanketed by the darkness and searching for some kind of light.
Some players walked even slower than the rest, hobbling along and nursing their minor injuries.
The hopes had been high just a few hours earlier, when the person who is known as “The Man” in Kailua athletic circles, was honored in the pregame ceremony. Alex Kane, Kailua’s all-time winningest football coach, was standing at midfield to cheers when the announcement was made that the stadium now bears his name.
By the end of the game, there was no real cheering, though.
Simply put, Kailua struggled.
There were two bad punt snaps, numerous penalties, four lost fumbles, two interceptions.
That type of performance might be overlooked against powerhouses like No. 2 Mililani and No. 8 Leilehua, teams who downed Kailua in previous weeks.
But this time, the Surfriders were home and not playing a team in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser Top 10. Maybe, the fans hoped, things would start working in their favor.
Junior quarterback Martin Tigilau, who showed exceptional escapability against a mad Aiea rush, was ineffective in his passing performance, completing just four of 16 attempts with two interceptions, including one late in the game when Kailua was trying to mount a comeback.
Tigilau came out on fire before slowing down. His first pass of the game was a 37-yard touchdown gun to Koolauloa Gaspar for a 7-0 lead.
Tigilau is a backup to junior starter Noah Auld, who is still recovering from a concussion, according to Wong. Senior backup Tristan Futa, who has seen considerable action this season, was limited to spot duty against Aiea.
After that quick TD, it looked like Kailua just might be ready to turn around its fortunes.
But that didn’t happen, and now the Surfriders (0-3, 0-3 OIA Blue) are still looking to give Wong his first win as a head coach.
And it doesn’t get any easier. Four games remain on the regular-season schedule — at No. 6 Campbell and No. 10 Kapolei and at home against No. 5 Farrington and Moanalua — with no pushovers in sight.
It was a defensive, field-position battle against Aiea for most of the night, and senior running back Paepaeiva Silifaiva-Kaeha turned in a solid game with 54 yards on 13 carries.
Defensively, junior Kalei Kealoha-Machado had a big game with two interceptions of Aiea quarterback Kobe Kato, and senior Kaimana Lono came up with a pick of a pass thrown by Na Alii’s Jordan Liilii.
The Surfriders also got a defensive touchdown by Peter Albinio, who recovered a fumble in the end zone after Liilii coughed up the ball on a hit by linebacker Christian Mejia.
That TD made it 19-14 and Kailua was still very much in the game with 5:43 left in the third quarter.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Surfriders made their biggest blunders with two personal foul penalties for a total of 30 yards, allowing Aiea to go from the Kailua 48 to the 18. Na Alii scored the game’s pivotal touchdown four plays later.
Wong talked about how the team’s false-start and holding penalties set back the offense.
“When you do that, it messes up the whole thing of what you’re trying to accomplish,” he said. “It’s unfortunate because our defense played their (butts) off.”