Chayden Sasaki-Kalamau knew it would be just as tough the second time.
The Roosevelt senior defensive lineman and his unit put their energy into film study, reviewing every possible new wrinkle they hadn’t see the first time the Rough Riders played Pac-Five.
Their diligence was rewarded. Roosevelt used clutch defense, including five sacks by Sasaki-Kalamau, plus a steady ground attack to stave off ILH representative Pac-Five 20-7 on a breezy Saturday night at Ticky Vasconcellos Stadium.
Roosevelt (12-1) will visit defending D-II state champion Lahainaluna next week at Sue Cooley Stadium in the semifinal round of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Football State Championships. The Rough Riders had to survive before they could advance. Pac-Five (4-5) reached the state tourney only after unbeaten St. Francis forfeited its wins due to the use of an ineligible player.
Sasaki-Kalamau, at 6-foot-1 and 240 pounds, was consistently in the backfield when Pac-Five needed to throw the ball. Pac-Five’s premier offensive lineman, Leif Fautanu, lined up at a different position.
“It felt like the same game because it was so close. Last game I had him at tackle, and this game he was at center. I don’t want to say they’re as good as Leif, but they still put up a challenge,” Sasaki-Kalamau said.
The Wolfpack were fueled by their underdog status. They were within one score of victory in their four defeats, and only a last-second field goal by Roosevelt’s Mason Murashige denied them victory when the teams met in early August.
Roosevelt’s defense provided the foundation again. Pac-Five was scoreless in the first half, and after getting a short field three times in a row during the third quarter — blocked punt, interception and a bad punt — the visitors cut the lead to 14-7.
Roosevelt’s Josh Maikui, a 5-foot-10, 175-pound sophomore, later came up with a huge interception, while Sasaki-Kalamau led a relentless pass rush on Pac-Five quarterback Rocket Uechi.
Now the Rough Riders have the task of flying to Maui next week, where defending D-II state champion Lahainaluna awaits.
“From what I hear, I feel like we have to really stay disciplined,” Sasaki-Kalamau said. “And we have to really practice hard.”