Winning cures just about everything.
For the Kaiser football team, winning is all it has done this season.
Tested for the first time this season, the Cougars showed some resolve after nearly blowing a 22-point second-half lead to pull away and beat reigning Division II state semifinalist Kaimuki 45-31 on Friday night at Kaiser Stadium.
Freshman quarterback Easton Yoshino threw six touchdown passes for the Cougars, who two years after playing just one game due to a lack of numbers, are 6-0 overall and 4-0 in OIA D-II, tied for first with Roosevelt.
“We can’t get ahead of ourselves,” said Kaiser senior defensive lineman Duke Minihan, who sacked Kaimuki quarterback Jayden Maiava twice.
There was a noticeable increase in turnout at the game on Friday as the stands were jam-packed for a showdown between two undefeated OIA D-II teams.
Kaimuki had won the last six meetings in the series — including a 30-14 victory in the OIA D-II semifinals last season.
This one was different as Kaiser got its first win over the Bulldogs since 2005. For Kaiser head coach Tim Seaman, it’s because of a noticeable difference he’s seen in practice in recent weeks.
“I think the big thing, to be honest, is the practices. We’re practicing much more efficiently and much harder and I really think that is a big deal,” Seaman said. “Games are won Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. Friday night is the showcase but the real work is early in the week.”
He was asked if that’s a product of the success the Cougars are having.
“I really do,” he responded. “It’s something we’ve been trying to preach, but you get a little taste of success and you want more of it.”
Kaiser rolled through its first five opponents, winning each game by at least 14 points and never allowing more than 10.
Friday was supposed to be different against a Kaimuki team that has made the OIA playoffs four years in a row and advanced to the state tournament twice since 2015.
Kaiser put up 17 points in the first quarter and took a 31-9 lead on the first play of the second half when Dre Falls followed Jesse Stroede‘s 57-yard kickoff return with a 27-yard touchdown reception.
This wasn’t like the other games however as Kaimuki showed too much pride to roll over.
Maiava, a sophomore who threw for 417 yards and four touchdowns, hit Matt Williams, who intercepted a pass to end Kaiser’s previous drive, for a 92-yard touchdown in the third quarter to pull within 31-16.
The Cougars then fumbled a punt snap and tried to run for a first down, but gave the ball back to the Bulldogs inside their 30.
“You could just sense them coming back,” Seaman said.
Bulldogs receiver Koby Moananu, who caught eight balls for 156 yards, had an interception on defense and then scored on a 19-yard TD to cut the lead to 31-24 in the fourth quarter after a successful two-point conversion.
But Kaiser’s depth, especially at the skill positions, proved to be too great. Junior Mason Yoshino, the team’s leading receiver, didn’t have a catch all game until brother Easton found him over the middle for a 24-yard score to double the lead 38-24.
After a Kaiser three-and-out, Yoshino found Kamakana Mahiko for a 60-yard TD for his third touchdown reception of the game. Mahiko, who had 97 receiving yards through his first five games, finished with 124 yards on five receptions.
“We’ve got a lot of skill guys that can help,” Seaman said. “Tonight was Kamakana, and Dre (Falls) had some big plays, Cavin (Lime) running the ball in the fourth quarter was big. We’ve got a variety of skills guys so it’s kind of what read the quarterback makes and the protection we get. There’s a lot to it.”
Mahiko credited his unique way preparing for a game.
“I played my video games,” Mahiko said. “Dead by Daylight. My brother was talking smack so I whupped on him.”
Easton Yoshino finished 11-for-19 for 279 yards, throwing TD passes on more than half of his completions.
“(Mahiko) was hot and I kept feeding him,” he said. “We have a bunch of playmakers.”