Waialua has endured so many losses for one to finally pay off.
Three years ago, the Waialua Bulldogs won the OIA D-II title with a 36-35 victory over Waipahu at Aloha Stadium, but a week later, suffered a 40-0 loss against Damien in the first round of the state tournament.
Over the next two seasons, the Bulldogs lost every game on the field, aside from a forfeit win over St. Francis after the fact when the Saints were ruled to have played with an ineligible player.
The tide changed this year as Waialua (5-5, 4-4) opened its 2019 season with a 31-7 victory over Nanakuli and followed that with four more victories to finish the season with its first playoff bid since that 2016 title game.
The Bulldogs lost 29-26 in an overtime showdown against Pearl City on Saturday night, but earned the fourth seed in the OIA D-II playoffs with Nanakuli losing to Roosevelt.
Waialua owned the head-to-head tiebreaker after beating Nanakuli to start the season.
“It feels good. I’m happy for the boys,” Waialua coach Lincoln Barit said. “Everything is for the boys, it’s not for me. We just gotta do it again next year. This is their year so I’m happy for them.”
Waialua and Pearl City went toe-to-toe the entire game, scoring back and forth until the game clock wound down to zero on a tie 23-23 game.
Waialua senior Justyce Lacar and junior Kai Hoekstra each grabbed an interception with Hoekstra returning the pick 56 yards on consecutive defensive drives. Junior quarterback Kyler Dicion took advantage of the field position Hoekstra earned on defense, passing to the back-turned-receiver on a 27-yard pass for the score, but a bad snap left the Bulldogs at 6-0.
The Chargers (3-7, 3-5 OIA D-II) immediately found their rhythm on offense, responding to Waialua’s TD with a touchdown of their own on junior receiver Kainuma Maddox’s 34-yard scoring catch from senior quarterback Makana Canyon. Pearl City took a one-point lead following junior kicker Landon Chang’s made extra point, making the game 7-6.
Thirty seconds later, Waialua senior running back Storm Quilinderino caught a 69-yard touchdown from Dicion before junior Kayde Mahuka booted the extra point to put the Bulldogs on top. Pearl City’s offense quickly marched down the field and finished its first drive of the second quarter with a 4-yard touchdown catch from senior receiver Juan Vargas who, once again, tied the game.
Multiple Waialua players went down with injuries, including senior defensive tackle Pono Nahinu. Barit said his goal for the team is to, “stay healthy. This game I just wanted to stay healthy. I didn’t want anyone to get seriously hurt, we lost our defensive tackle [Nahinu], so we just gotta stay healthy.”
After a slow-burning first half for both teams, Pearl City coach Robin Kami said his halftime speech reminded the team to “just have fun, this is the last game for the seniors, so let’s just go out there and play for the team and for the seniors.”
Waialua’s Lacar found the end zone in the third quarter, catching a 16-yard pass for the score, but a 61-yard scoring catch by Pearl City sophomore receiver Joshua Gleason made up for it. Back-to-back field goals by each team — 37 yards by Chang for the Chargers, and 27 yards by Waialua’s Mahuka kept the teams in line until time ran out on the game clock to force overtime.
Dicion was unable to connect with any of his receivers on the Bulldogs’ first drive in overtime, so Mahuka nailed a 40-yard field goal to put the team ahead, 26-23. Pearl City’s Vargas gave the offense good field position with a 15-yard catch, and Gleason earned his second touchdown on the game-winning 8-yard touchdown from Canyon.
Kami praised his receivers — especially Gleason, Vargas, and Maddox — for their field placement and dominant catches on contested balls, saying “They were big, they got some big catches. They’re underclassmen, so they’ll be ready to go for next year, too.”
Pearl City closed the book on its 2019 season with a victory against Waialua, but the Bulldogs aren’t finished yet.
Barit reflected on the team’s perseverance and hard work before the fall semester in their first playoff opportunity in three years.
“They wanted it from the beginning,” Barit said. “They came all summer, we went seven-on-seven. The 18 boys that came all summer, they’re still here. I’m glad for them we made the playoffs, which was the goal. One game at a time and our next goal is to win the playoffs.”
Waialua will play top seed and defending league champion Roosevelt next weekend with a state berth on the line.