Not much had gone right for McKinley during the 2019 season entering its game against Kalaheo in a battle of winless teams. The Tigers had lost all four of their previous games by an average margin of 36.8 points.
On Saturday night at Alex Kane Stadium, the Mustangs and Tigers struggled through a scoreless opening three quarters. Although the Mustangs scored first, it was McKinley who would prevail 6-3 for its first win of the season after Khert Vincent-Saing’s 1-yard rushing touchdown with 1:28 left broke a three-game scoring drought for the Tigers (1-4).
Kalaheo dropped to 0-5.
“I’m glad for the kids,” McKinley coach Pat Silva said. “They work hard, but there’s still a lot of work. That’s just something where we gotta get back to the drawing board and keep working on. It is what it is. We have a young team. That takes time.”
Both teams had just one full possession each in the first quarter due to each squad running the ball almost exclusively. The Tigers didn’t attempt their first pass of the game until quarterback Alexandria Buchanan and Joab Cruz connected for an 8-yard gain midway through the second quarter.
The top performer offensively in the first half was Buchanan, who became the first female to throw a touchdown pass in state history as a sophomore against the Mustangs in 2017. She was a perfect 2-for-2 for 31 yards in the opening two quarters.
The third quarter was much of the same. Buchanan completed her third pass for a gain of six yards, but neither offense threatened. Kalaheo was pinned at its own 1 with 3:17 left in the third, and that drive carried over into the fourth and concluded when Kainoa Ferguson’s 24-yard field goal with 8:43 remaining gave Kalaheo a brief lead.
The Tigers got the ball back with 4:26 left after both teams exchanged punts. Quarterback Kaena Leopoldo and Cruz connected three times to march McKinley down the field. Cruz was the only McKinley receiver to catch the ball more than once, hauling in five passes for a game-high 55 yards.
Buchanan re-entered the game to hand the ball off to Vincent-Saing for the game’s deciding score.
“It was good to come back with a drive like that and put together a drive where we punched it in,” Silva said. “But we just need to be more consistent throughout the game and we’ll be fine.”
Ferguson’s 55-yard field goal attempt fell short as time expired. The Tigers couldn’t surpass their highest point total of six against Roosevelt on Aug. 9, but against the Mustangs, six points was more than enough.
“(The defense) gave up some big ones but they hung in there,” Silva said. “They bent but didn’t break in the fourth quarter. To me, that was the key. They had the long drive but when they needed to, they came through.”