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.
I beg to differ. I believe the real difference is not the win, it’s Pac5’s administrative ineligibility to not participate in the state tournament. If they were allowed to play, i believe Pac5 would have been the fourth team and not Wailua.
Correct me if I’m wrong, the Pac5 team did defeat Wailua earlier in the season.
I feel for PAC5 but if they were to play Waialua today it would not be close. When they played PAC5 Waialua’s #9 QB/LB was out. The RB#24 the best in DII only carried 12 times but give him 20 carries. #3 WR/DB the best in DII give him 10 catches and not only 4 and he’s 100% healthy now. Another standout receiver #2 can make plays. And #1 can catch too.
The 4 best teams are going to the playoffs
Blame ILH and stop crying.
Every team is better at the this point in the season. To suggest that if Pac5 and Waialua played again, Waialua would win is debatable. It makes no difference if you are hurt, if, if, ifs… No one is ever 100% at this point in the season. If you show up to play, no one cares if you say you are not 100%, you are expected to play as if you are 100%, end of story. If a RB does not get touches that is not Pac5s problem it is a coaching decision.
The seasons ends the way the season ends. I have heard very little of Pac5 folks complaining at this point to assume that they should be playing instead of Pac5, that is outside noise. They knew going into this season their fate and yet played hard every game. End of story.
This was a negotiated problem between OIA, ILH and the HHSAA. If the format is to remain and ILH and OIA representation is to remain in all three divisions, there has to be a better negotiated position so that everyone has a chance of postseason regardless of league.
Pac5 had a good season and they have nothing to be ashamed of in the effort they put forward given their fate from day one. It is what it is and great lesson for those boys. Work hard and play harder regardless of the decided outcome. They ended the season with nearly the same number of players that started, that says it all.
Congratulations to Waialua, I hope they give Roosevelt a run for their money.