The international flair of Waialua’s clutch win over McKinley

Waialua running back Ezekiel Sheridan carried the ball during the OIA season opener against McKinley. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.

The difference between a silent bus ride and a boot-stomping return home to Waialua rested on the sturdy left foot of Lasse Stolten.

The sophomore exchange student from Germany, playing in a football game for the first time in his life, connected on two field goals as Waialua rallied past McKinley, 15-13, in a thriller on Saturday night.

“I’ve been here three months. I thought, I’ve got to make this for the team. It was a struggle, but also, like I’m very proud of this team and I’m going to make it for them,” Stolten said.


Wirtz was proud of all his Bulldogs, but he was no different from any of his staff and players when he saw the youngster from Germany show up when the postponement period ended.

“I’m super proud of him. We’re lucky. We have several kickers,” Wirtz said. “I’ve seen him at practice and I knew he could handle the pressure. We put pressure on him at practice.”

Stolten saw his first football game in Ohio.

“My brother and my father and I went to a football game in Cincinnati. So then they said, ‘You have to play,’ ” he said.

A soggy third quarter made life difficult for both teams, but especially for centers, long snappers and kickers of the pigskin. McKinley had a lead, but after a few bad snaps, including a misfired punt snap that went out the end zone for a safety, there was no solace.

For Waialua, which saw reliable first-year running back Ezekiel Sheridan cough up the pill during a drive into Tiger territory, the repercussions of playing in the elements weren’t as severe. Stolten’s final field goal, a 26 yarder, barely crossed the crossbar, staying inside the left upright, to give the Bulldogs a two-point lead with 1:25 left.

McKinley’s dangerous run-and-shoot attack couldn’t get past midfield, and the Bulldogs boarded their bus for the 29.8-mile trek through Central Oahu.

Senior lineman Sebastian Stone remembers the day Stolten kicked a football for the first time on campus. Back then, he had no idea how clutch the 6-foot, 180-pound soccer player would be in an actual football game just weeks after joining the team.

“When we recruited him to kick, it was at P.E. class. We’re playing flag football, messing around. We told him to come try and kick,” Stone said.

Stone is familiar with overseas life. When he was 7, his family moved from Waialua to Japan, then South Korea, then Okinawa as his father’s Navy career made some interesting landing points. Earlier this year, the Stones came back to Waialua, where the Manuel side of the ohana resides. At 6-5, 225 pounds with speed and strength, he played a big role in Waialua’s pass rush.

Stone wasn’t the only curious Bulldog at that P.E. class.

“Me, Jonah Gibo, Kawika Benz, Kaulana Lopes. Someone held the football for Lasse and I’m not sure how far away we were from the goalpost, but it was quite a distance. We were shocked to see the distance. We asked him to kick again and I think he made a few,” Stone recalled. “P.E. class was the last period and he came out for practice that day. I was a meeting for the first day (Sept. 24) we got back.”

Stolten hasn’t missed a day since.

“I think he could maybe top 40 or 50 (yards). It’s pretty far. No numbers on the field, but I’d say 40 yards solid. We’re super glad to have him on the team. An exchange student, it’s cool,” Stone said.

It was quite the night for brothers Ezekiel and Elisha Sheridan. Ezekiel powered his way to 122 yards on 22 carries behind his persistent trench men.

Dylan (Agricula, 6-0, 250) was at left tackle. Kaimana (Lopes, 6-3, 240) was our center, but he got injured. Ikaika (McCormick, 6-0, 200) went to center, then we switched to Christian (Apau (6-2, 230). He normally plays at defensive end and center. Ikaika normally plays guard,” Ezekiel Sheridan said. “Christian and Ikaika were at right guard. Sebastian (Stone, 6-5, 225) was right tackle.”

Brother Elisha was making his varsity debut — his first game in any organized football game — at cornerback. Mckinley was still in the lead when a quick punt was shanked. It bounced directly to Elisha Sheridan, who was at right cornerback.

“Right when he snapped the ball, I took a quick glance and it went straight to me on the ground, and it went straight to my hands,” he said. “I was kind of surprised.”

Ezekiel Sheridan, a two-way starter, was deep at free safety. When McKinley didn’t line up in normal trips or twin-receiver formation on third down, he sensed danger.

“I knew they had lined up odd. They didn’t line up too far from the ball,” he said. “I was in the back of the field ready to return the punt.”

Elisha Sheridan, a 5-7, 150-pound junior, grew up playing soccer with his brother. It was and still is a way of life, but not even futbol has a moment like this. Sheridan secured the pigskin and ran like the dickens.

“To be honest, I thought I was going to get tackled. I wasn’t sure who it was, but I stepped to my left, and then I went back out and it threw off whoever it was,” he said.

He could barely think, his legs motoring like wheels on a locomotive. His 41-yard return to the end zone gave Waialua the lead.

“Football, it’s a whole different game. The hype is so different. Soccer, you score a goal, you can score tons of goals,” Elisha Sheridan said. “Football is way more intense, way more rough.”

Ezekiel Sheridan is proud of his brother.

“I seen him catch (the bouncing punt) and I’m thinking run. Run! I yelled, ‘Run! Run!’ I didn’t know if he would make it,” he said.


It was a major relief for Ezekiel Sheridan after fumbling earlier in the third quarter.

“That felt very, OK, we’re back in this and I had an adrenaline rush from (Elisha’s) run,” he said. “I still have some burpees to do at practice. We’ll see.”

Elisha Sheridan was ready to try football as a sophomore when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. He never played football as a younger athlete.

“I’m sure (Pop Warner) would’ve been fun. I think I would’ve been better than I am now,” he said.

The Sheridan brothers were actually responsible for kicking duties until Stolten arrived. Ezekiel Sheridan still punts. Elisha Sheridan can focus on one of the most demanding positions in football.

“Lasse is really good at kicking, I imagine, just from playing soccer all his life. His accuracy for field goals (and kickoffs), he’s good. He’s still pretty much learning, but he has time to learn,” Elisha Sheridan said. “We don’t practice field goals much. We work on returning kickoffs in spots.”

Waialua quarterback Tyson Apau (7) looks to pass against the McKinley Tigers during the first half of an OIA football game on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, at Roosevelt High School. Jamm Aquino/jaquino@staradvertiser.com.

Stolten didn’t boom his final field goal, but his ensuing kickoff dropped at around the 5-yard line.

“I believe he can kick it all the way to the end zone,” Elisha Sheridan said. “I was pretty nervous on that last (field goal). We needed it. Without that, we would’ve lost.”

Stone, the world traveler, had no doubt.

“I think he had it in him, to be honest,” he said.

His father, Christopher Stone, retires from the US Navy next month. After playing basketball, then football at Kubasaki High School — a base high school — in Okinawa, it works out well. Sebastian Stone’s chances of getting attention from college coaches improved dramatically by returning to the islands.

First-year Bulldogs head coach Gary Wirtz had contemplated using Stone as a tight end, but the team’s needs prevailed. Stone now plays left tackle and defensive end.

“I think we just mutually agreed,” said Stone, who wears jersey number 50. “He did put me at tight end at the beginning and I got a few reps in, but we definitely needed more size on the line, so I was totally fine.”

He batted down two passes by McKinley quarterback Dustin Chow.

“If I were to pick one position, I would say defensive end. Just being able to sack a quarterback or blocking a pass. I got two or three (bats). I just love that feeling,” he said.

Stone played tackle, guard and center during his two seasons at Kubasaki. Prior to that, he played basketball.

“Freshman year, I was 245, 250 pounds, a little chubby. I was about 6-2. I opted out of football. I wasn’t prepared, wasn’t too sure about the roughness. When I played basketball, I lost a lot of weight. I was eating less. I tried out for football and I liked it,” he said.

It wasn’t just the running. He got serious about the weight room and now has a max bench press of 265, quite respectable for a tall athlete with long arms. He has a max squat of 345, and though he hasn’t played basketball for a few years, he dunks a ball with two hands, no problem.

Stone plans to play basketball for Waialua when football season is over. After that, the dream is alive. He has a grade-point average of 3.7, including 4.0 in the first quarter.

“I told my parents I want to play football in college. Over the 2020 summer I was really working hard even though there was no sports. Trying to lift weights, run, eat good. Sure enough, the time has come,” he said.

Chicken, rice, oats, Muscle Farm protein shakes. Stone moves and attacks much like old-school defensive ends, particularly former Oakland Raiders great Ted “Stork” Hendricks. A giant, Halloween monster on the edge who is difficult to escape.

The ride home from Roosevelt’s Ticky Vasconcellos Stadium will never be forgotten.

“Coach Gary was hyped as well with us, but he’s trying to teach us, don’t get too excited. If we do, we’re going to lay off, kind of, and we’re not going to have that drive,” Stone said. “Our heads might be blown up, get cocky. He wants us to act like we’ve won a game before. So, just enjoy (the win).”

His thoughts, though, were also with Lopes, who suffered a leg injury in the game.

“It was his knee,” Stone said. “He couldn’t be on the bus with us.”

The Bulldogs committed 87 yards of penalties in the first half and just five in the second.

“We seen our mistakes, we knew our mistakes in the first half. Once we hit the halftime, we were able to ourselves, talk to our boys, get them on the right track, get ourselves, coaches, on the right track and fix our mistakes,” Wirtz said.

Coming from a modest-sized school on the outskirts of Oahu, the Bulldogs have responded to every adversity so far.

“I just like to thank the coaches and our team,” Stone said. “I’m happy for the kind of bond we have as a team. The connection we have to our coaches. We just love each other.”


When the bus pulled in at Toshi Nakasone Field late Friday night, the Bulldogs were welcomed back.

“Even the parents coming out after the game to bring us food. Just grab and go. They made us musubis, hot dogs, drinks,” Stone said. “It was pretty nice. We’re a small community. It’s been two years since we last played a football game. Being able to come back and win is a great feeling.”

COMMENTS

  1. orioles4eva October 18, 2021 4:10 pm

    Thank you for the nice story about the Bulldog team. They train just as hard as the bigger schools but rarely get the recognition.


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