Kaimuki continues to have Kalaheo’s number.
With a 45-25 Bulldogs victory over the Mustangs at Kailua’s Alex Kane Stadium on Saturday night, Kaimuki has won eight straight in the series going back to 1998.
More importantly, the lopsided decision kept Kaimuki (3-2, 3-1) in solid position for one of four OIA Division II playoff berths out of the eight teams in the conference heading into a homecoming date with last-place McKinley next week. Kalaheo (1-5, 1-4) saw its playoff chances all but vanish with two games to play.
The Bulldogs bulled their way to 561 yards of total offense.
“The key was just executing on offense,” coach David Tautofi said. “I think we were a lot more efficient today than we’ve been all season. That was the biggest key for us. Our quarterback (Jordan Solomon), he had a few bad decisions, but he overcame those and gave us a good chance to win. Establishing our offense, we were pretty much moving the ball at will.”
Solomon came into the game with a completion percentage of 45.2 in conference contests. But he was effective against the Mustangs, going 21-for-36 for 258 yards with a season-high four touchdown passes against two interceptions.
Solomon’s Kalaheo counterpart, Mark Lehrner, had pretty similar stats — 14-for-24, 236 yards, four TD tosses and two picks — but the difference was the Bulldogs had a ground game and the Mustangs simply didn’t.
Running back Ieke Seei-Cleveland rumbled for 136 yards on the ground and two scores, and caught another ball for a TD. His backup, Alfred Bualuay, effectively killed the clock in the fourth quarter with his legs once Kaimuki rattled off 25 straight points to put the game away.
Receiver Daniel Nguyen was an all-around threat, scoring a touchdown each on a catch and a rush. He set up his 20-yard rushing touchdown with a 55-yard kickoff return to the Kalaheo 25.
“He’s always been one of our key guys on offense, making plays happen for us,” Tautofi said of Nguyen. “But tonight was probably the most efficient he’s been for himself. It’s been nice to see that, to know that still exists, you know? There’s games where he’s absent, and games where he’s there. So it’s good to see that.”
So where did all that efficiency come from this week?
“We stepped up conditioning a lot more,” Tautofi replied as he walked to the team bus. “Conditioning was really the biggest key this week, and really getting on them for even the smallest mistakes.”
Meanwhile, Solomon went totally untouched in the backfield.
The biggest hit Kaimuki took was the loss of senior lineman Joyfull Elieasar, who dislocated an ankle in the third quarter and was carted off the field. The whole team gathered around him first for a quick prayer.
“He is (a big loss), he’s one of our senior captains, one of our anchors on the line,” Tautofi said.
Kaimuki needs to take care of business against McKinley (0-3) and then likely needs at least a split in its last two games against Waipahu (3-1) and Pearl City (4-0) to stay ahead of Kalani (2-2) for a playoff berth. The Falcons bested the Bulldogs 26-22 on Aug. 20, so Kalani owns the head-to-head tiebreaker. Kalani has favorable matchups in two of its three remaining games, vs. Kalaheo and McKinley.