When Kamehameha’s Kiai Keone flicked Saturday night’s game-winning touchdown to a wide open Kalanikuikahi Lorenzo, it seemed that time stood still for a moment.
Keone said afterward that he was so confident in the play call that he knew Lorenzo would be there with room to spare. When the 9-yard rainbow landed in the sophomore’s hands with 5 seconds left to give the Warriors a 28-25 comeback victory at Farrington, it was just like practice.
“I knew the play that we had was going to work. It was just the fundamentals,” Keone said. “It was an easy throw for me.
“When I released it, I was like ‘Brah, I hope he catches it because it’s the game winner.’ We prepared a lot for this moment and it showed.”
Lorenzo was Keone’s top target all night, hauling in a game-high eight passes. But it was his last catch that turned the Farrington crowd pin silent after the Govs faithful were stomping on their seats mere seconds before.
“In that moment, I didn’t want to drop the ball and let my team down. All it came down to was our team coming together and fighting through this game,” Lorenzo said. “We were down in the second half, but we didn’t give up. We didn’t quit on each other.”
Kamehameha came out of the gates hot when Kawika Clemente took a handoff 55 yards for a score on the Warriors’ first offensive play. After that, the Warriors couldn’t generate much of anything, and the rest of the half was an offensive dud.
Farrington, meanwhile, shocked the visitors with 22 unanswered points in the second quarter. The Govs evened the game at 7 in the second quarter on Raymond Millare’s 2-yard rushing score with 9:09 on the clock. On Kamehameha’s next possession, Keone was strip-sacked on his own 26. The fumble wasn’t recovered until Govs defensive back TJ Paleafei pounced on it at the Kamehameha 2. Torrence Liufau promptly doubled the Farrington lead with a 2-yard rushing score.
The Governors then gained even more momentum when they forced another Kamehameha three-and-out on the next drive. When Farrington got the ball back, it ran a perfectly executed trick play to add to its lead. Jonah Aina-Chaves, who splits his time between running back and quarterback, caught a backwards pass from Darius Chaffin and hit a wide-open Christian Havea for a 50-yard touchdown. The Govs then kept their foot on the gas and decided to go for two. After Millare barely crossed the goal line, they suddenly found themselves up 22-7 with 3:46 left in the second quarter.
Kamehameha coach Abu Ma’afala knew the game would be a hard-fought battle, which is why he didn’t take Farrington’s outburst as a shock to the system.
“I told them all week this is going to be a very physical football game. This is a well-coached team. Coach (Daniel) Sanchez is great at understanding his personnel and exposing your weaknesses and getting the ball into his playmakers’ hands,” Ma’afala said. “We told them all week that it was going to be a very physical football game. We might get down, we might be up, but we just have to keep persevering. When halftime came, the score was what it was and I just had to remind them that we talked about it and it’s going to be close.”
The Warriors put themselves back in the game with Andrew Lee-Smith’s 3-yard rushing touchdown with 5:13 left in the third to cut the deficit to 22-14. Two plays later, as Millare fumbled an option pitch, Hawaii commit and Kamehameha defensive end Ezra Evaimalo was right there to catch the ball in the air and run 1 more yard into the end zone. Evaimalo was a menace all night in the backfield with three sacks.
The Govs briefly extended their lead when Jalen Joe Cabrales barely made a 28-yard field goal to go up 25-21 with 8:42 left. After getting the ball back on its own 21 with 3:15 left after both teams tuned it over on downs, the Warriors slowly and methodically drove down the field for the winning touchdown, although they were helped by a few Farrington penalties. Keone threw an interception in the end zone before the game-winning play but it was negated due to a roughing-the-passer call.
“I’m just so very proud of our team. We’ve come off a couple of tough losses but they’ve never given up,” Ma’afala said. “Whatever the result was the weekend before, they’ve showed up and put in work.”
As for the final drive, Ma’afala knew the team would be fine with the ball in Keone’s hands.
“We have our set of plays that we go in and practice going into the red zone. Just made a call and very proud of our quarterback Kiai,” he said. “Made some mistakes near the end but he came in and stood tall in the pocket, made a good throw, and I’m happy for him.”
The win puts the Warriors at 2-4 overall this season, and it’s also their first win over an Oahu team. Its previous lone win came over Samoa’s Fagaitua on Aug. 23. Up next is a matchup with Kapolei on Sept. 27, a team that fell to Farrington 22-8 on Sept. 6.
“The hope is that there’s belief and hope for them,” Ma’afala said of Saturday night’s win. “We’ve been preaching since the beginning that good things happen when you work hard. No matter what the result was from the weekend before, our kids show up and give us as a coaching staff every ounce that they could.
“I’m hoping this is an awesome reward for them to see that when you work hard and when you persevere, good things can happen.”
Kamehameha’s Ezra Evaimalo could very well be the DPOY. Dude has been making plays every week. Unfortunately the team won’t go far in the playoffs so that may not help his chances. That kid is a beast.