Much has been made of the new divisions in the OIA this year. For the first time since the old red-white-blue relegation system that died in 1995, schools are not aligned based on geography, which is why Waianae made its first trip to Kaiser in more than 35 years on Friday.
The ride home was made just a little easier after a 26-7 victory that ended Kaiser’s 14-game winning streak.
Already in an 0-1 hole after losing to Moanalua last week, Waianae couldn’t afford a second loss in as many weeks. The Cougars looked good in a 52-7 win over Aiea, but were done in by four turnovers and critical mistakes on fourth-down plays that kept Waianae drives alive.
The Seariders pounded away at Kaiser with 53 rushing attempts and opened up a close game with 19 unanswered points over the final 14 minutes. John Barbieto scored the go-ahead touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the 3 late in the third quarter.
“It’s going to feel a lot better going home, but at least we have plenty of time to rest,” defensive lineman Nayton Kuresa said.
Kuresa deserved it after chasing Kaiser quarterback Kalawaia Judd around all game. Kuresa stopped Kaiser from answering Waianae’s go-ahead touchdown when he sacked Judd on the first play of the fourth quarter and helped frustrate the Kauai transfer. Judd was only 4-for-15 in the game for 20 yards with three interceptions.
“Our defense did what we were told to do,” Kuresa said, crediting his coaching staff.
Waianae coach Daniel Matsumoto was concerned how his team would handle the long ride to Hawaii Kai. It turned out to be not quite as bad as he thought it might.
“Actually, the ride was pretty good, traffic wasn’t that bad and our bus driver did a good job getting us here on time,” Matsumoto said. “We were concerned about the travel but the boys knew how key this game was. I’m just glad they fought through it.”
Waianae won’t have to worry about a long trip like that the rest of the year. Its only other two games away from home are at Waipahu and at Aloha Stadium against Kahuku.
First up is a three-game homestand, beginning with a critical showdown against Leilehua next Friday.