Down 20-7 with seven minutes left in the third quarter, the odds were stacked against Waialua before it quickly began its comeback to beat Kalani, 35-26.
Although the Bulldogs (5-4, 4-3 OIA D-II) notched the first score of the game on a 9-yard touchdown run by senior RB Storm Quilinderino, they wouldn’t see the end zone again until halfway through the third quarter.
The Falcons (4-5, 3-4) scored three consecutive touchdowns on a 17-yard pick six by senior linebacker Nicholas Sakamoto followed by senior RB Nathaniel Balangitao’s 5-yard run and Sakamoto’s 1-yard run.
Unable to add more than one touchdown to the scoreboard at the end of the second quarter, Waialua head coach Lincoln Barit encouraged the athletes in his halftime speech.
“I told them bring the fight to them,” Barit said. “That’s all I tell them every time, they’re bringing the fight to you guys. You guys gotta reverse it and bring the fight to them and get stronger.”
Motivated by their head coach’s pep talk, the Bulldogs kicked off a scoring run with junior WR Kai Hoekstra’s 11-yard scoring catch and a blocked punt returned 5 yards for the score by junior DB Dylan Yadao to take the lead, 21-20.
Yadao’s blocked punt return earned special accolades from Barit who said, “that was the best. I’ve never seen one like that in a long time. That’s gifted, he’s really gifted.”
Junior QB Kyler Dicion connected with senior QB Justyce Lacar on a 35-yard touchdown pass only minutes into the fourth quarter.
Barit celebrated each of the offensive scorers, saying “They all greatly impacted the game. They have great attitudes, they’re great leaders, personality, everything. They’re leaders on the team because we don’t have captains. I told them anyone can be a captain, but it’s hard to be a leader.”
Hoekstra tallied the Bulldogs’ final score in the fourth quarter with a 23-yard catch in the end zone before Kalani’s Balangitao earned a 16-yard rushing touchdown.
After the successful comeback, Barit said “we gotta get the next one, practice hard. We always practice hard and they know to put in the work so we’ll get another one.”
In the race for the final playoff berth in OIA Division II, Waialua moves into a tie with Nanakuli for fourth place, but hold the tiebreaker over the Golden Hawks as they won their matchup 31-7 in August.
Waialua visits Pearl City to close the season and the Golden Hawks have the tougher task of hosting Roosevelt. If Nanakuli loses, Waialua is the No. 4 seed in the OIA D-II playoffs whether it beats the Chargers or not.