The Roosevelt football team has been on a steady climb, more than doubling its wins in each of Kui Kahooilihala’s three years at the helm.
Up next for the 9-2 Rough Riders? A chance to do something that’s never been done in program history.
Roosevelt has never won an OIA or state championship, but after Saturday night’s 23-7 win over Pearl City, the Rough Riders set up a date with Kaimuki for the OIA Division II Championship game on Oct. 26.
The Rough Riders were edged by the Bulldogs 13-10 on Aug. 17. But for a program that prides itself on getting better each week and season, things will be different in the rematch.
“The kids are excited but they try to stay humble at the same time. We lost to Kaimiki the first time around,” Kahooilihala said. “The kids, they want to try and redeem themselves. They’re looking forward to this game.”
Roosevelt’s win over Pearl City on Saturday night also gives the Rough Riders a spot in the HHSAA Division II state tournament, regardless of what happens against Kaimuki.
The win didn’t come easy over the Chargers, who were in the OIA D-II state title game just a year ago. It required a tantalizing performance from quarterback Sky Ogata, who rushed for scores of 79 and 25 yards and finished with 142 yards on eight carries. He also was an efficient 8-for-13 in the air, throwing for 32 yards and no interceptions.
“I love what the coaches are doing. They’re teaching us well and we’re just trying to execute every play,” Ogata said. “It feels good. We never made the championship in a while and we never passed this round in a while. It’s a good feeling, a good win.”
With a slim 17-7 lead in the fourth quarter, the Rough Riders put the game away with a fake punt executed to perfection, ending in a 59-yard Myka Kukahiwa touchdown that would be sure to bamboozle any camera crew had the game been televised.
“I saw everyone running down, which is what the play was meant to do. I just saw the field open and ran as fast as I could,” Kukahiwa said. “The design was, I hide behind my line and get a direct snap. As soon as the ball is snapped, everybody takes off in the opposite direction.”
Kahooilihala credited another coach on the staff in Arnold Morgado, who played for the Kansas City Chiefs from 1977 to 1980, as the architect for the play call.
“It’s coach Arnold Morgado, man. We don’t wanna do that but we practice it, and if the situation in the field calls for it then we’ll do it,” Kahooilihala said. “That was one of those times where we had to do it. Coach called it and I said ‘Go ahead, man. Let’s go.’”
Kukahiwa’s touchdown is a sure contender for play of the year, but the Rough Riders know it will take a complete game to top Kaimuki under the bright lights of Aloha Stadium.
“It’s gonna be a tough one,” Ogata said. “Losing to them was a hurtful loss but we’re looking for revenge and we’re coming.”
The Rough Riders have yet to play a game at the stadium this year. They’re hopeful that Friday won’t be the only time they get to do so. The HHSAA Division II title game, set to kick off the championship tripleheader on Nov. 24, is also in Halawa.
“I feel like we can come back. We’re known as the comeback kids,” Kukahiwa said. “We’re gonna seize the moment and get the win we need.
“I lost every time at Aloha Stadium. I’m ready to make a change.”