For a brief, brief moment after Saturday’s 12-3 win over Pearl City at Skippa Diaz Stadium, Kaimuki senior defensive lineman Sama Paama called the victory “satisfying.”
And then he clarified himself.
“But never satisfied,” the 6-foot-5, 330-pound University of Washington commit said. “We’re not done yet. We still have a job to do and that’s the championship.”
The Bulldogs are in familiar territory as they will compete in the OIA Division II playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. What’s different this go-around is the Bulldogs will enter as the No. 1 seed and undefeated in league play after finishing off a 7-0 regular season with a win over the Chargers.
Kaimuki coach David Tautofi, now in his fourth season, has been to the state tournament, but has also seen his team suffer two heart-crushing losses in the OIA semifinals in the past two years.
The challenges are as they’ve always been. Kaimuki has suited up anywhere between 24 to 30 players for a game this season after calling up guys from junior varsity. But the end goal remains the same. Cash in on that elusive OIA Division II title.
“The wins is the bonus and that’s the reward for the accomplishments of their hard work, but this hasn’t been anything new,” Tautofi said. “We’ve been doing this since you first met me. It just gave me as a coach a better perspective of what we need to coach. Seeing what I put these kids through every day in their conditioning is not fun, but it’s gotten the best out of our boys.”
Kaimuki relied on its defense to get past Pearl City on Saturday. A loss would have resulted in a three-way tie for first place between the Bulldogs, Chargers and Roosevelt. Instead, Kaimuki will get to play Kaiser at Skippa Diaz Stadium next Saturday in a rematch of a 46-21 win two weeks ago.
Kaimuki quarterback Jonah Fa’asoa, who set a school record with 435 yards passing in the win over the Cougars, completed just four passes for 16 yards against Pearl City.
Naomas Asuega-Fualaau (19 carries, 86 yards) and Jonah Stephens (nine, 81), who returned a fumble 89 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter, did the bulk of their damage on the ground late in a game dominated by the defense.
“It was hard fought,” Stephens said. “We really wanted to win because we’ve lost these past few years.”
Paama had seven tackles, four tackles for loss and three sacks to help hold the Chargers to 102 total yards.
Kaimuki, which finished with only 170 total yards, went 86 yards on a long drive midway through the fourth quarter and sealed the No. 1 seed when Asuega-Fualaau scored on a 14-yard TD run.
“It gives us a good advantage mentally,” Tautofi said about clinching the No. 1 seed. “I can’t imagine what it would feel like for us if we lost, but the boys know what will needed to be fixed this week.”
Pearl City is also in the playoffs as the No. 3 seed but might be without quarterback Christian Tielu for Friday’s game against Roosevelt with a state berth on the line.
Tielu left the game in the fourth quarter after he was hit after scrambling for yards. Junior Makana Canyon, who has split time with Tielu at QB all season, finished 11-for-16 for 68 yards.