Moanalua’s radical revival presses on

Moanalua's Ezra Bantolina, Drayden Von Oelhoffen and Jim-Matthew Cardenas scrambled to recover a fumble during the first half of a 17-14 win over Kailua in the OIA playoffs last year. Photo by Steven Erler / Special to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

If you thought Moanalua was out cold after five games, you were in the majority.

Na Menehune were 0-5 and looked done as far as making the playoffs were concerned, but have now won four games in a row. Their 17-14 victory over Kailua in the first round of the Oahu Interscholastic Association Division I playoffs Saturday night at Skippa Diaz Stadium sets up a quarterfinal game against undefeated and second-ranked Mililani next weekend.

Going back to last season, Moanalua had lost eight games in a row before the four victories.

“Our team showed a lot of heart,” said linebacker Micah Kim, who had three tackles for loss and also was used as a ball-control running back in the late stages to keep the clock moving. “We had a rough start in the beginning of the season, but after that, we showed heart and kept going with it. After that, it’s all been heart.

“Next week, we play Mililani, a powerhouse, a real good team. They’ve got a lot of studs and a good coaching staff.”

Beating Kailua is one thing, but beating the Trojans is another. Still, nothing appears to be impossible for this team, which is now at 4-5 and showing no signs of letting up.

“We gotta get ready for Mililani,” Moanalua defensive back Tre’quan Henderson said. “We can’t give up. We just gotta go.”

Henderson knows something about “going.” He returned a kickoff 96 yards for a TD to give Na Menehune a 14-7 lead late in the first quarter. He nearly got tackled on the Kailua 20 by the receiver he was covering like a blanket all night, Tanner Wright.

“Oh yeah, Tanner Wright,” Henderson said. “The last time we played them, he gave me a good game. This time, my DB coach said, ‘Don’t let him catch the ball. Don’t let him get big yards. Don’t let him score.'”

Wright didn’t catch any passes. Part of that was because Cole Weber, the Kailua quarterback, left in an ambulance at halftime. Weber took over as the starter when regular starter Aaron Mejia was lost for the season with an injury in late September. But Henderson did not give Wright any space.

With six seconds left in the third quarter, Griffin Motas kicked what turned out to be the game-winning 18-yard field goal to break a 14-14 tie.

For the Surfriders, their fortunes played out the other way around. Kailua started the season strong, with three straight wins, including a 28-27 win over Buckeye Union from Arizona, but the Surfriders went 1-5 to end the season at 4-5. Once ranked in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser Top 10, Kailua’s troubles, especially on offense, began with a 3-0 loss to Farrington after that three-game winning streak. The team never got its groove back.

Surfriders inebacker and punter Alika Teramoto, a standout in the game and all season, is graduating next spring, but he wants the fire to continue to burn with his teammates that return for the 2018 season.

“All us seniors gotta work hard in whatever else we’re doing in life,” he said. “To all the boys staying, you just gotta work hard and get redemption next year.”


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