It’s two years in a row now that the Kaimuki Bulldogs have visited Kauai for a postseason game and come home on the losing end.
On Saturday, it was a 35-28 loss to KIF champion Kapaa (8-1) after their comeback fell short in the Division II semifinals of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Division II semifinals at Vidinha Stadium. In 2018, it was a 20-12 defeat to the same Kapaa squad.
Looking like they were on the ropes, the Bulldogs fought back from a 35-14 deficit and drove as far as the Warriors’ 24 late in the game, but a Jayden Maiava pass was picked off by Kapaa’s Jeffrey Brown to end the dreams.
Maiava worked his magic in the second half, guiding OIA D-II champion Kaimuki (10-3) back in it. He finished with 325 passing yards and threw for four scores. Two of his receivers went over 100 yards — Koby Moananu (10 catches, 116 yards) and Jonah Faasoa (seven catches, 115 yards).
Guard Daniel Moefu-Tautofi, who played the whole game after having to using a cane to get around during practice on Wednesday due to a foot injury, talked highly of his teammates and the effort they put in.
“It’s sad that we lost,” he said. “Man, it was a helluva run. This team is always going to be the greatest team in my heart. I’m glad that none of our boys gave up. All of them kept pushing. It was a blessing to be here. I’m not mad at all. Plenty of them are young and have got a good high school career in front of them. I want them to keep their heads up and keep pushing.”
There has been recent speculation that coach David Tautofi would be stepping down after the season. He has not shared his plans for 2020 yet.
“He’s one of a kind,” Moefu-Tautofi said. “There’s not going to be any better coach than that. If there is, that’s a blessing for the school.”
Added Faasoa, a 6-foot-1, 245-pound tight end who showed off his sweet hands by making big catches in tight spaces: “It was just their (the Warriors’) day today. On any given day, any team can beat any other team.”
Early in the contest, Kaimuki went down by 13-0 and 28-7 before the 35-14 deficit.
“Our offense was doing a lot of great things in the second half,” coach Tautofi said. “We just couldn’t finish it. You don’t want your season to fall one game short, so there is disappointment. These situations (close tournament losses) are something you don’t prepare for. How are you going to get these kids to feel better? It falls back on our relationship that I’ve had with these boys, going through their trials and tribulations. We were blessed to be in this position again and to be part of the journey we all took. Every team is special, but I’ll remember the character of this team.”