Sophomore quarterback Alexandria Buchanan has been getting the headlines the last few weeks for the McKinley Tigers, and she did her job once again Friday night managing the game.
But it was a bunch of players around 250 pounds who got it done while the 125-pound girl with the ponytail handed it off with little fanfare as the Tigers broke through for their first win since 2013 to break a 29-game losing streak with a 22-0 road win over Waialua.
First, there was Frank Steffany, all 5 feet 10 and 240 pounds of him. He bulled his way for 41 yards while lugging the ball 18 times, and he also scored a touchdown on a 19-yard pass from Nuu Koli, the quarterback who Buchanan platoons with.
Then, there were running backs Sioeli Lopes-Liutolo, who is 5-10 and 260, and Laulii Iosefa, who is 5-10 and 230. That’s a lot of meat heading the way of the Waialua line, and the youngish defense did its best but eventually buckled.
Lopes-Liutolo rushed for 42 yards, but he also had two interceptions on defense, as did teammate Ezekiel Samuelu, who is 5-11 and 230 pounds. Those four picks were part of five on the night and two fumble recoveries for the hungry Tigers.
Iosefa rushed for 54 yards and was instrumental in McKinley’s game plan of controlling the ball and using the clock.
“This is is just one win,” McKinley coach Pat Silva said. “Hopefully this will start something down the road and we look forward to the challenges. This one is for the seniors. They’ve never experienced this before.”
The previous victory for McKinley (1-5, 1-4 Oahu Interscholastic Association Division II) was Oct. 11, 2013 — 36-15 over Waipahu in the OIA Red playoffs.
Friday’s game was scoreless until just before halftime, and for a few moments, it appeared it would be 0-0 at the break.
But the Tigers did break through in what had been a completely defensive battle. On fourth-and-3 from the Waialua 19, there was about 5 seconds on the running clock when Koli took the snap and found Steffany down the middle for the 19-yard score as time ran out.
The second half was all McKinley, which got a 24-yard field goal from Hiue Huynh. The Tigers also got into the end zone with an impressive 91-yard drive and made Waialua (0-6, 0-5) pay by getting six more points late in the game after Samuelu’s second interception.
“They (the Bulldogs) gave us a good game,” Steffany said. “We wanted it more.”
The Tigers have two more chances to continue their winning ways this season. They have a bye next weekend before visiting Pearl City on Sept. 29. They then close out the regular season against Waipahu at Roosevelt’s Ticky Vasoncellos Stadium on Oct. 6.
The Bulldogs’ streak of losses increased to seven, including last season’s 40-0 defeat to Damien in the Division II state tournament that wrapped up their OIA D-II championship season at 7-3.
“We’ve been putting in the time and effort,” Waialua two-way lineman Matthan Hatchie said. “But there is no excuse for what happened tonight. All the mistakes should have been cleaned up.”
Hatchie changed his jersey from No. 71 to No. 42 late in the game and checked in at tight end as the Bulldogs drove all the way to the McKinley 4 when the game clock ran out.
“I was trying to see if I can give something else that I’ve got,” Hatchie said. “I tried to go in at tight end and make a score.”
Hatchie said it was his idea to try his hand at tight end, and the coaches went along with it. He says the Bulldogs will be on the warpath for that elusive victory in their final two games.
“We gotta work harder and do our best against Kalaheo (at Kailua next Friday) and if not them, then it’s Roosevelt (at home Oct. 6). We’re trying not to lose any more games, but getting that one win would be great.”
In yards from scrimmage, McKinley outgained Waialua 272-121. The Bulldogs’ Hunter Apau had 77 of those yards on six receptions.