KEAAU >> After losing to Roosevelt in the OIA Division II title game, the path for Kaimuki to get to a state title game will include multiple trips to the outer islands.
The first was a one-hour flight to the Big Island to face BIIF champion Kamehameha-Hawaii on Saturday night in Keaau. The weather was awful with rain coming down for the entire day and evening, yet despite five fumbles lost, including three in the fourth quarter alone, the Bulldogs came away with a 28-27 victory.
“It all came down to the desire and the will not to give up and keep fighting,” Kaimuki coach David Tautofi said. “We did enough to win and we also did enough to keep it close.”
The Bulldogs gave up an apparent game-tying touchdown with 48 seconds left on a 26-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Kaimi Like to Izayah Chartrand-Penera.
The extra point ended up wide right and the Bulldogs recovered a perfect onside kick that the Warriors had chances to recover, only to see 6-foot-4, 345-pound Sama Paama recover it for Kaimuki to secure the Bulldogs win.
“I felt relieved that we got the win,” an exhausted Naomas Asuega-Fualaau said after rushing for 159 yards on 22 carries.
Asuega-Fualaau was one of three Bulldogs to rush for touchdowns in the victory.
Elijah Lemalu rushed for 97 yards and a touchdown and Jonah Stephens added 63 yards on 10 carries with a 1-yard touchdown run that capped a 14-play scoring drive to open the second half.
Kaimuki rushed for 268 yards and completed only two passes.
“(The rain) really affected a lot of our plan passing wise,” Tautofi said. “It’s a blessing to have another package where we could rely on those guys to run the ball.”
Kaimuki trailed 14-7 at the break but scored on its first two drives of the second half. A 14-play drive that took nearly seven minutes off the clock ended with Stephens’ 1-yard TD run to tie the game at 14-14. The drive continued after Kaimuki faked a punt in its own territory on fourth-and-8.
“I knew that they weren’t rushing too much,” Tautofi said. “They were playing soft on the punt and we were in the right position and it was the right moment to do it. It made a big difference.”
The Bulldogs turned the ball over on downs twice in the first quarter but scored on special teams when Lemalu blocked a punt and Blade Pfeiffer-Kekoa scooped and scored it from 25 yards put.
Pfeiffer-Kekoa also caught a two-point conversion to put Kaimuki up by seven in the fourth quarter and had two sacks and a tackle on fourth-and-2 late in the game to forcer a turnover on downs.
“It’s just very exciting. We’re trying to bring (a title) back to Oahu,” Pfeiffer-Kekoa said. “Most of the other communities already have a state championship and I think Kaimuki needs it most.”
The Bulldogs will play KIF champion Kapaa at Vidinha Stadium on Saturday. The winner will advance to the state title game at Aloha Stadium on Nov. 24.
“We’re not moving on to any game. We’re going to enjoy this victory tonight,” Tautofi said. “We’re fortunate to be going to Kapaa. We’re looking forward to that challenge come Sunday but right now we’re going to enjoy this one with the boys. We’ll get back to the drawing board on Monday. I know we’ll have a lot of things to clean up.”