As the last few Waialua players made their way toward the team bus to begin the journey from Ewa Beach back to the North Shore, Lincoln Barit took a moment to reflect on a season that will take a prominent place in Bulldogs lore.
“The community, the family, the coaches, everybody came together. I’m so proud of the boys,” Barit said, then paused. “I get choked up every time I talk about them. It’s all them.”
Waialua’s landmark campaign, Barit’s 14th leading the program, ended with a 40-0 loss to Damien on Friday in the first round of Division II in the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA State Football Championships at Campbell.
Two weeks earlier, the Bulldogs earned the program’s first state tournament berth by holding off Kaimuki 19-14. Last Friday, they celebrated a dramatic 36-35 win over Waipahu in the OIA Division II final that ended a 61-year league title drought.
A four-game winning streak that carried Waialua to the program’s deepest postseason run ended with the loss to Damien, the ILH D-II champion, leaving the Bulldogs to look back on the run that energized the community over the last month and their prospects for the future.
“I really wanted to move on, but it happens,” Barit said. “But the (OIA) D-II championship, nobody can take that away from the boys and I told them that, ‘you guys earned that and worked hard for it.’”
The loss marked the final on-field appearances for 21 seniors who helped craft the breakthrough run as Waialua finished above .500 for the first time since going 5-3-1 in 2006. The Bulldogs went 4-4 in 2014 and 5-5 last year.
“Hopefully the seniors left something to the underclassmen that they can carry on next year, pass the torch to them,” Barit said. “I’m pretty sure next year we’ll be there.”
Dual-threat quarterback Tevesi Toia and do-everything lineman Matthan Hatchie are among seven juniors who could help set the foundation for next season. Damien contained Toia for much of Friday’s game and he closed the season with 1,456 passing yards and 16 touchdowns with three rushing scores.
Turnout tends to be a challenge for the program and without a junior varsity team Waialua’s 43-player roster included eight sophomores and seven freshmen. Barit hopes the excitement the Bulldogs generated during the state tournament run carries over when sign ups for next season roll around.
“In 2006 we had a good season and in 2007 we had about 60 players come out,” Barit said. “We’re praying it would happen and Waialua boys, we have a lot of kids out there but they have to show up and experience it.”