They started the season with 19 in uniform at Kamehameha-Maui and ended it with 20 suited up at Skippa Diaz Stadium on Friday night.
The Kalaheo Mustangs have been undermanned all season, but still managed to double their win total from the previous season.
Kalaheo finished 2-5 in OIA Division II play following a 49-7 loss to Kaimuki, which is headed to the playoffs for the third straight year.
Junior quarterback Noa Lapera threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Justus Neufeldt in the loss and is one of a number of underclassmen coming back next season that has head coach Darrell Poole optimistic about what lies ahead.
“The core of the team is coming back and that’s the beauty about it,” Poole said. “Noa is coming back and we got half of our skills coming back and a few linemen coming back and hopefully the numbers get better. We’ve got some great JV kids coming up so we’ll see what happens.”
After watching the junior varsity team hang tight in a 14-7 loss to the Bulldogs, the varsity team took the field with nothing to lose.
Kalaheo forced a Kaimuki fumble at the 1-yard line to stall the Bulldogs’ second drive, and Lapera’s touchdown pass early in the second quarter pulled Kalaheo within a score at 14-7.
Kaimuki went on to score 35 unanswered points as the Mustangs struggled to contain the Kaimuki running game with nearly everyone playing both ways.
Nonetheless, it was a victory in itself that Kalaheo managed to play out this season while forfeiting only one game — to regular-season champion Waipahu.
The 20 suited up wouldn’t be enough to hold an 11-on-11 scrimmage against each other.
“We weathered the storm for the season with the amount of guys we had,” Poole said. “We are a young team and I expect big things from them next year. They have this never-say-die attitude and I’m proud of them.”