Roosevelt’s Shepherd Kekahuna gets his long-awaited trip to states after all

Roosevelt senior Shepherd Kekahuna made the All-State first team in his only year with the Rough Riders. Photo by Parish Kaleiwahea/Special to the Star-Advertiser.

Shepherd Kekahuna didn’t know that a year had already passed since the darkest day of his football career.

On Oct. 19, 2018, Kekahuna was a junior at St. Francis when its season was called due to disqualification. It was discovered that the Saints, who were undefeated at the time, had used an ineligible player for part of the season.

One year to the date later, on Saturday night at Roosevelt, Kekahuna was the catalyst behind the Rough Riders’ 57-23 throttling of Waialua in the OIA Division II semifinals. Roosevelt (9-1) built a 20-0 lead after one quarter, thanks to two 3-yard rushing touchdowns and one 56-yard punt return for another, all courtesy of Kekahuna.


It was another performance to remember for the 5-foot-10, 195-pound senior.

“Just knowing that I came into a team where the bond is also close and everyone has the same mind-set of playing for family, it just gives me motivation to go forward,” Kekahuna said.

The win gives Roosevelt an automatic bid into the HHSAA Division II state tournament, regardless of if the Rough Riders beat Kaimuki (8-2) Saturday at Aloha Stadium. It will be Kekahuna’s first and only time playing in a state tournament.

St. Francis was riding high at 9-0 in 2018 before its season came to a sudden end. The school then closed at the end of the 2018-2019 academic year.

“This is a big step. I never got to be in states because last year, we got disqualified. I was down because I knew we had a good team at that time. But that’s OK,” he said. “This year, it’s all about doing what I can to win states.”

Last season’s demise wasn’t as prominent in Kekahuna’s mind as much as playing for defensive backs Josh Maikui and Aalona Monteilh. Both were starters in this year’s Roosevelt secondary before suffering season-ending injuries.

“It was our time to step up today for Josh and Aalona. If we keep doing that, then we can win states. The coaches, they don’t give up on us. They just always keep pushing us. It’s always positive energy,” Kekahuna said. “We’re playing for our teammates, our coaches, our family and God and that’s it.”

Roosevelt coach Kui Kahooilihala had no idea he would have Kekahuna a year ago. But he’s definitely grateful he does now.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser featured Monteilh and Kekahuna on Oct. 15. After Saturday’s game, Kahooilihala brought up the impact the two have brought to the program.

“Oh man, (Kekahuna) and Aalona. Aalona got hurt. But those two guys, just their passion and work ethic during practice, during the week. You can tell that they’re passionate for this game,” he said. “They’re great leaders on the field. Shepherd’s IQ for the game of football, it’s just amazing. He’s really helped the program. It was a team effort, too. What Shepherd does, it’s a credit to everybody else around.”

Roosevelt’s offense was absolutely humming on Saturday night, carrying momentum over from last week’s 55-10 win over Nanakuli. Its output of 112 points over its last two games broke the record for most points scored in a two-game stretch for the Rough Riders. The previous record was 107 over consecutive games in 1999.

Defensively, Kahooilihala hopes the team can contain the potent Bulldogs attack when the two teams meet again.

“Kaimuki is an awesome team. Tough, very aggressive. They got some good athletes too,” he said. “Coach David Tautofi, he does a great job with the boys. Even with the numbers that they have, those guys come and bring it every week. It’s going to be tough for us.

“We gotta take care of what we can take care of on the defensive side. I think we match up well. It’s gonna be a tough game, we’re ready but we’ll have to prepare for Kaimuki.”

The Bulldogs got the better of the Rough Riders, 28-26, when the teams met on Sept. 20 at Skippa Diaz Stadium. Kaimuki also beat Roosevelt in the regular season last year, but fell to the Rough Riders in the OIA D-II championship game.

Kahooilihala certainly hopes history can repeat itself next weekend.

“For our kids, it’s a big game and atmosphere. The kids, we don’t worry about what’s around us or in front of us in the field,” he said. “It’s all about taking care of your business. They’re looking forward to going back there and I’m sure it’s going to be just all business.”


  1. Riders808 October 20, 2019 1:26 am

    This is truly something special! Once again congratulations Riders! As always stay humble, stay hungry, stick together and be ready to work. Let’s win it all! Much love from California! Go Riders!

  2. UnkoBoogie October 20, 2019 11:16 am

    Shepherd needs to be in his normal defense position @ Strong safety!
    Last year All-State safety you do the math.

    Nephew we all proud of you we love watching you play. #phonesonwhen4on

  3. HawaiianHammah October 20, 2019 5:16 pm

    Unk’s, here’s the math! Shepherd has 4 (Suppose to be 5) Int’s for touchdowns… As an OLB!!! He’s the should be the defensive player of the year as an OLB!!! Gifted enough to play where he can help the team the best… For this team, it’s as an OLB!!!

    The Rough Riders are blessed to have him!

  4. Unkoboogie October 21, 2019 9:18 am

    @HAMMAH 4-5 INT. Das manini for him. Last year my neph had 6 pic 6 1 each game. Average 7 tackles a game. No TDs thrown on him.
    Kaimuki going run away all game from him come Sat.

    Put the boy in his natural position SS this sat.

    Kaimuki going down. If not then it’s going to be a long game for the roughriders come sat.

    Listen to unko boy unko know best!

  5. Mokes October 21, 2019 11:33 am

    I think you right about him being back in his normal position but I don’t think it will dictate anything Kaimuki plans on doing with their gameplan. Shoot, they ran most of the time at your nephew and it worked for Kaimuki. I just think Roosevelt going need to utilize him wisely to get the most out of him. He’s probably the only one that can slow Kaimuki down but thats the key word, “Slow” because Kaimuki going get theirs on offense. Too much weapons. I do remember a conversation earlier in the spring that Kaimuki was in consideration for him to go to, that would’ve been something else. But your nephew going bring his game, lets just hope the rest of the team and the coaches are on their game too. I think this game going to be the top game of the night over the D1 and Open Division Championship.

  6. Unkoboogie October 22, 2019 9:17 pm

    @mokes kaimuki ran twice on shepherds side he shut dat down real quick after that they never ran his way all game.

    @hamma shepherd now that 5 is injured put shepherd safety. Kaimuki lose I promise you this. Kaluna not going be catch no passes up the middle again and that runningback going get minus yards. Shepherd had to make plays coming from the opposite side. I tell you put him safety. Everything on lock!!! Riders garant champs!

  7. Sheps dad October 24, 2019 6:01 am

    @unkoboogie cuz I think this you. Lol neva mind.
    But I know your heart for the boy das ok just no talk trash about the coaches cuz they doing a good job. JV COACHES 2.

    But u speak truth.

    Let me add to this. Lol
    I think shep would be better at ROVING MLB. Because kaimuki play run 1st better to have him MLB
    for “JOIN THE PAAAAARTAAAAY”. but das just my opinion.

    No matter wat though. I cheering for the RIDERS REPEAT! 2Xs

  8. Jake October 24, 2019 8:34 am

    @everybody. All truth but honestly. The best spot for him this game vs kaimuki is at MLB.

    Best vs best. RB vs MLB.

    Safety he be getting no action. The kind of talent and shep has.
    Let him come and “JOIN THE PARTAAAAAAY” plus he can just read and his blitz is hard to stop.

    I know cuz I raised this kid.
    Dad that work LONG HOURS 😂.

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