Entering Friday night’s contest at Kailua, both Kalaheo and McKinley were 0-1 in OIA Division II play and 0-2 overall in 2016.
Kalaheo was 2-7 in 2015, with one of the wins a forfeit over Anuenue, which no longer has a varsity program. On the other side, McKinley came in losers of 18 straight.
Something had to give.
What resulted was what Kalaheo head coach Darrell Poole called a “total team effort,” as the Mustangs (1-2, 1-1) grinded out a 28-14 win over the Tigers (0-3, 0-2).
“I told my team that they’re hungry for a win and so are we,” Poole said. “It was going to be a battle. I think if we can carry this through for the rest of the season, we can be right there as one of the contenders at the end of the season.”
The Mustangs, outmatched only in roster size, were down to 27 players after lineman Ikua Purdy-Fotu went down with a shoulder injury.
After dropping down from D1 last year, McKinley had almost twice that amount on its sideline.
“It’s a numbers game at Kalaheo. We just don’t have the numbers,” Poole said. “This win is huge because it’s a momentum builder for us. We can use this to believe that you don’t have to have 50-something guys on the team. If we train hard, we’ll be competitive with everybody.”
The Mustangs received a huge boost from its aerial attack as senior Tristan Thulin-Marsh hauled in two touchdowns on six receptions for 136 yards. Quarterback Mark Lehrner was an efficient 9-for-12 with 135 yards and three touchdowns and an interception.
McKinley’s offense was a polar opposite to Kalaheo’s as Tiger quarterback Elyjah Badua threw a total of five passes, completing just one.
“They were going to be a run team from the start. That I knew for sure,” Poole said. “I scouted them and we played them in 7-on-7’s too. That was the biggest part of the game plan. We knew we had to stop the run. We stuck to that and it worked out.”
As McKinley searches for its first victory in years, Poole wants the Mustangs to start a winning streak and knows what the plan moving forward for his team is.
“Just togetherness as a team. It was a team win,” Poole said. “We won as a team, not as individual players on the field. I think that’s our thing for this year. That’s the bottom line.”