Na Menehune come up big in opener

Waianae's Justice Jardine, left, tackled Moanalua's Michael Feliciano during Na Menehunes' win on Friday. Honolulu Star-Advertiser photo by Krystle Marcellus
Waianae’s Justice Jardine, left, tackled Moanalua’s Michael Feliciano during Na Menehunes’ win on Friday. Honolulu Star-Advertiser photo by Krystle Marcellus

One of the beautiful things about football is that the complexion of a game can change in a matter of minutes.

For instance, take Moanalua’s 30-23 season-opening victory over No. 8 Waianae on Friday night.

When the third-quarter closed, all that was left for Moanalua to do was control the ball and the clock, wrap up what looked like it would be a blowout, get on the bus and get out of there. Na Menehune, after all, held a commanding 30-7 lead, an astonishing feat when you take into account that Moanalua had never beaten Waianae in 12 previous tries.

Here are Moanalua coaches vs. Waianae:
Jason Cauley, 1-0
Jose Gueverra, 0-1
Stan Uyeshiro, 0-1
Larry Arnold, 0-1
Allen Takemori, 0-1
Nino Murray, 0-2
Arnold Martinez, 0-2
Donald Ng, 0-4

Then came what Na Menehune coach Jason Cauley termed the “scary” part, and it almost became a very real nightmare for the visitors.

First of all, backup quarterback Royce Carrick, who didn’t play in the first three quarters, spearheaded a 76-yard fourth-quarter drive with some tough running and a few key passes. Jurick Valdez, who finished with 73 yards on 18 carries, scored from 2 yards out and added a 2-point conversion run to make it 30-15 with 3:11 left.

No problem, still, for Na Menehune, right? Wrong. With 1:14 left, Waianae defensive end Joey Nuuanu-Kuhiiki slammed into Moanalua quarterback Kawika Keama-Jacobe and when the ball popped out, Seariders teammate Nayton Kuresa picked it up and thundered 50 yards for a touchdown. Valdez once again added the 2-pointer and suddenly Waianae trailed by just 7 points, 30-23.

“I was really proud of the way the kids kept their spirits up,” Waianae coach Danny Matsumoto said. “We can’t ask for any more in that department. We just weren’t consistent enough in stopping their drives.”

Waianae’s onside kick was recovered by Moanalua’s Kekaulike Kalua and Na Menehune ran out the clock from there.

“That could be possibly the best defensive front we’ll face,” said Cauley, who was relieved after the close call. “We’re excited and happy, and it was scary at the end. Waianae is big, strong and resilient and we knew they had the potential to come back.”

It was close in the early going, but Moanalua pulled away for a 17-7 halftime lead that became 23-7 early in the third quarter. Jason Sharsh was the recipient of touchdown passes of 14 and 18 yards from Keama-Jacobe, and workhorse Michael Feliciano rolled into the end zone from 32 yards out to make it 30-7 midway through the third quarter.

Feliciano carried the ball 17 times for 70 yards, and Keama-Jacobe threw for 191 yards.

Cauley was not kidding when he gave credit to Waianae’s front. It sacked Keama-Jacobe five times, including two by Kuresa.

Turnovers also played a big part and Moanalua won that battle 5-1. Kea Rodriguez, Steve Feliciano and Joffree Gillard had interceptions for Na Menehune, and Brandon Brush and Zorich Palimo‘o recovered fumbles.

Rodriguez also had a sack.

“I was really proud of our defense,” Cauley said.

Carrick, the Waianae junior quarterback listed on the roster as a running back, subbed in for sophomore Jorell Pontes to start the fourth quarter. Pontes, at 5 feet 8, 135 pounds, was playing in place of senior starter Ioane Kaluhiokalani, who did not suit up.

Sharsh, the veteran Moanalua receiver, finished with five catches for 89 yards and two touchdowns.

Keama-Jacobe showed a lot of resilience, standing in the face of the Waianae rush. He stumbled before resetting himself on his first TD toss to Sharsh.

On a huge third-and-long scramble in the third quarter, he avoided a sack deep behind the line of scrimmage, recovered and bumped into an official slightly before unleashing a strike for a 23-yard gain and a first down to Rodson Kealohi.

Moanalua gets its second straight game against a Honolulu Star-Advertiser Top 10 team next Friday at No. 7 Campbell, which got off to a fast start with a 35-13 win at Castle on Friday night.

Waianae, which is expecting Kaluhiokalani back in the lineup soon, visits Kaiser next Friday. The Cougars, who moved up to Division I after winning last year’s state Division II championship, got off to a fast start with a 52-7 win over Aiea at home on Friday night.

Kaiser, with new coach Cameron Higgins, was just out of the preseason Top 10 and that blowout win could get them in.


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