Before the season started, Waianae senior Rico Rosario almost didn’t suit up for the Seariders.
With his family set to move to Las Vegas, Rosario had a choice: play his senior season at Liberty High School in Henderson, Nev., or stay with his grandparents in Waianae.
Rosario chose the latter and finished the season with 872 rushing yards on 162 carries and 12 touchdowns, including 25 carries for 86 yards in a 10-7 loss to Kahuku in the HHSAA Division I Open semifinals.
The loss was a heartbreaker for Waianae. The Seariders held a 7-3 lead right until Red Raiders quarterback Sol-Jay Maiava found Duke Heffernan for an 8-yard touchdown with 58 seconds left in the game. Kahuku’s defense held on to get to its third consecutive state final, while Waianae missed out on its first appearance in the state title game since 2010.
“Just really disappointed because we worked hard this whole week. We just came up short,” Rosario said afterwards. “Hat’s off to my O-line and my team, and the defense for putting on a show tonight.”
Friday’s game at Aloha Stadium was a vast improvement from the previous matchup between the two teams, a game that Kahuku won 37-0 at Waianae on Aug. 18.
With the Red Raiders coming off an OIA title victory over Mililani the previous week, not many would have thought that the Seariders would keep the game within a single possession.
But these are the type of games that Rosario returned for.
“We were just really motivated and we just wanted to beat them,” Rosario said. “We just wanted to put on a show for everyone because everyone said that we was gonna get killed but we work hard and I’m happy with my team and what we did. It just wasn’t our day.”
Meanwhile, over in Nevada, Liberty is sitting pretty at 10-1 with a No. 75 national ranking on Max Preps and No. 2 state ranking behind only Bishop Gorman. The Patriots are also looking to reach their third consecutive state title game.
Regardless, Rosario said he wouldn’t trade his senior year experience. The 2018 Polynesian Bowl selection also holds offers from Adams State and Dixie State, which most likely means a move is coming that he can’t turn down.
“No regrets. Going to Waianae means everything,” Rosario said. “You just gotta stay on path and do what’s right.”