Walter Young couldn’t quite explain it.
Nobody probably could. On a night when Waianae’s might proved overwhelming for Kailua in a 41-12 victory, there is more than one facet, certainly, to the 200 yards in penalties the Seariders incurred. It was unlike anything his Seariders had done this season. Young, the Seariders’ head coach, was puzzled and, just a wee bit, perhaps, in disbelief.
“I’ve got to watch the tape,” Young said moments after the teams shook hands at midfield. “We’ve got to clean up the penalties. There’s no excuse.”
Young, the second-year head coach, is a teacher on campus. In fact, he is head of the math department. Sixteen yellow flags, including eight for 100 yards in the opening quarter, well… the numbers are staggering. Yet, there was a hint of doubt not just for Young, not just for his staff, but for fans at Raymond Torii Field, as well. A whole lot of them couldn’t quite figure out what the flags — nine personal fouls — exactly were.
It was, it seemed, a you-had-to-be-there scenario just about every time. Some fans were hollering by the second half about the little extra physicality out of bounds or even a supposed slap to the helmet by a Kailua player. Those went unflagged.
Kailua, which did its best to grind out every possession and milk the clock, had its share of whistles. The visiting Surfriders collected 11 penalties for 92 yards. A pittance compared to Waianae, but it wasn’t exactly one-sided.
Young said the Seariders would get Saturday off, particularly because their next game, a quarterfinal battle with Mililani, is scheduled for the following Saturday (Sept. 15). The coaching staff, however, will get together on Saturday to game plan, to reflect. To study Friday night’s video. What really went on out there?
It was heated in the trenches from the start. With Waianae ahead 7-6 after one quarter by the grace of a Kailua PAT kick that slammed into an upright — steel unkind — it was a mental challenge as much as it was physical combat. Waianae threw the ball occasionally — three times in a row to start one series, all completions, all to different pass catchers — almost as if to prove a point. Yet, there was no point, really, in airing the ball out. By the end of the first half, the Seariders had control of the trenches. Their massive blockers, they simply outnumbered Kailua’s mass. Or outweighed them.
The late Terry Albritton, the famous former strength coach at the University of Hawaii, said that speed plus strength equals power. Waianae had that edge and never relented on the way to a 367-yard night on the ground, averaging more than 9 yards per attempt. Nine yards would be a great average per passing attempt, let alone rushing.
Rico Rosario (11 carries, 130 yards, two TDs), Javen Towne (11 carries, 86 yards, one TD) and Kade Ambrocio (five attempts, 66 yards, one TD) — all on point. Even reserve RB Skyler Kaleiohi scored on his only touch. The meshed teamwork of the O-line and the backs, and QB Jaren Ulu, in slow motion, it is the stuff worthy of NFL Films. Especially the counter plays. Traps.
Young, logically, didn’t mess with success. Kailua’s first two drives chewed off 5 minutes and 1 second, and then 2:18. During that stretch, Waianae had the ball for just 2:25 to Kailua’s 8:31. Trailing 7-0, Kailua got the ball back and then scraped 3:14 off the clock en route to a TD pass by Mark Lagazo to Christian Mejia.
Kailua seemed to have everything going its way. Who would stop the 6-foot-4 Mejia, the football-basketball-volleyball beast with a 36-inch vertical? In the first 13 minutes of the contest, Kailua had held the ball for nearly 11 minutes.
It was not sustainable. By girth and by worth, Waianae cut out the penalty craziness and gained control of the game. That 100 yards of penalties in the first quarter — was Waianae truly on pace to lose 400 yards for the game due to yellow flag? Probably not. But as Young called time out and gathered the entire squad late in the first quarter, it wasn’t difficult to imagine that any team with 400 yards in penalties would and could not win a playoff game.
That same defense that committed eight personal fouls also sacked Lagazo, a speedy RB-turned-QB, seven times. The secondary doubled off on Mejia, who didn’t have a reception after halftime. Build fire, control fire, and Waianae’s defense did its part when the night was done.