The big moments keep coming for Waipahu, and the football players in the town known long ago for its sugar cane production got the sweetest feeling Saturday.
The Marauders captured their first state title in the sport by topping Hilo 42-22 in the Division I final of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Football State Championships at Aloha Stadium.
It sure doesn’t hurt to have the guy whom many consider the best running back in the state — junior Alfred Failauga. He exploded for 151 rushing yards and also threw a halfback option 15-yard TD pass to Saxon Tote.
It was a huge defensive day for Waipahu as well. Deacon Kapea returned an interception 38 yards for a TD. A trio of sack-happy players also contributed in a big way — freshman Matthius Aleaga (5 tackles, 4.5 for loss, 3.5 sacks) and seniors Amo Montero (4.5 tackles, 4 for loss, 3 sacks) and Zachary Camanse (7 tackles, 3.5 for loss, 2.5 sacks). All told, the Marauders had 11 sacks.
“That defense was long and physical like we thought they would be,” Kaeo Drummondo, the coach of ninth-raked Hilo, said about the Marauders. “They definitely gave us problems.”
Hilo was held to 178 scrimmage yards, including just 77 in the first half.
The Waipahu defenders were out to get satiated, according to the 6-foot-3, 251-pound Montero.
“We were really hungry,” he said. “After eating all that turkey on Thanksgiving, man, we were still hungry. Always hungry.”
Kealii Barrett, another standout performer for Waipahu’s defensive unit all season long, was the first player to hoist the koa trophy. He then brought it to coach Bryson Carvalho, who was in the middle of a TV interview.
“Amazing,” Carvalho said, when asked what it was like to hold the trophy. “That kid (Barrett) is so special. He’s been through so much. I’m just proud of the kids.”
Carvalho watched his 10th-ranked team during some fizzling moments at midseason. The Marauders were 5-4 at one point and trying to shake off some big losses, including 50-20 to Leilehua, 29-5 to Moanalua and 55-14 to ‘Iolani.
“Once we put everything together we found our identity,” Carvalho said. “They realized how good they can be. The played with a little more confidence. Once you have confidence you play a little more freely and things end up working out better. If you’re tense or unsure, it gets reflected on the field.”
The Marauders’ big break came in a 20-19 home victory over ‘Iolani two weeks ago in the state tourney’s first round. They trailed 19-7 before pulling it out and keeping their dreams alive.