What a game!
In case you missed it, Waianae held off Mililani 36-33 in the OIA quarterfinals at John Kauinana Stadium on Saturday night. Game of the year in this book.
The Seariders bulldozed to a 23-point, 29-6 halftime lead before Mililani buckled down on defense in the second half and came up with crucial stops to halt the Seariders in their tracks.
As a result, the Trojans’ offense got more time on the field and started working its magic.
Mililani sophomore quarterback Dillon Gabriel, who finished with 319 passing yards, hooked up with Andrew Valladares for a total of four touchdowns — three during the second-half comeback bid — and a school-record 215 receiving yards.
That offensive outburst after the halftime break gave the Trojans a short-lived 33-29 lead with 9:06 left.
If you’ve been to a Seariders football game, you know there is only one thing on everybody’s mind if it’s a close game near the end: “This is OUR fourth quarter,” the Waianae players and fans believe.
You rarely see Waianae outplayed in that final period, and that type of history was working against the Trojans on this night.
“Our coach pulled us in and said it was either going to be that they step all over us or we rise to the occasion and ball out,” said Waianae running back Javen Towne, who scored three first-half touchdowns.
And so, despite being totally outplayed in the third quarter, Waianae came through in the end. They drove 83 yards for the winning score, with Rico Rosario going up the middle for a 10-yard touchdown with 4:23 to play.
It was defensive back Sam Freeney, however, who saved the win with an alert break on a Gabriel pass after the Trojans marched past midfield. He sprinted and dove to intercept the pass with 3:06 left, and the Seariders ran out the clock.
Rosario finished with 197 yards rushing behind a firing offensive line.
Jalen Olomua was a big force behind Mililani’s defensive stand after halftime with two tackles for loss. In the first two quarters, the Seariders found holes with no problem, but they hit a brick wall after that.
Here’s a look at how the Seariders’ first four second-half possessions ended:
>> 1. punt
>> 2. punt
>> 3. lost ball on downs at their own 49
>> 4. lost ball on downs at the Trojans’ 43
Boom, boom, boom. Olomua’s 3-yard TD run and Gabriel TD passes of 75, 18 and 54 yards to Valladares turned that 29-6 deficit into a 33-29 lead.
Mililani head coach Rod York said his team’s untimely penalties on Waianae’s winning drive were unfortunate.
“Penalties continue to hurt us,” he said. “We’ve got to eliminate them, but I don’t know how we are going to eliminate them.”
Going into the game, York said his thoughts were: “Open is our only option. Division I is not an option.”
He was referring to the fact that the winner of the game moves to the highest tier, the Open division, at the state tournament and the loser goes to D-I, which is where the Trojans (5-3) are headed.
Waianae quarterback Jorell Pontes-Borje, filling in for injured starter Jaren Ulu, ran the Wing-T offense nicely.
“He took control and led us to victory,” Towne said.
Waianae, ranked fifth in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser Top 10, plays at No. 1 Kahuku next Saturday in the OIA semifinals. The Seariders (8-2) lost to the defending Division I state champion Red Raiders 28-0 on the North Shore on Aug. 26.
The winner of that game will play the winner of Saturday’s Farrington (7-2) game at Kapolei (8-1) the following weekend for the OIA championship.
Seariders head coach Walter Young downplayed the Open division berth that the Seariders clinched by beating Mililani.
“We’re not really thinking of that (the Open),” Young said. “We’re going to try to get this OIA thing going before we can get anything else. We’re going to enjoy this one and get back to the drawing board and get ready for the Big Red Machine.”