Life in the Open Division can be tough.
The Waianae Seariders know that well and made sure the Leilehua Mules understand how tough it is. Leilehua’s debut in OIA Open Division was a 47-6 loss at Raymond Torii Field on Saturday night as Waianae’s Kolu Quisquirin-Sabagala rushed for 129 yards and touchdowns of 6 and 48 yards. The 5-foot-10, 230-pound senior had only 15 carries along with one reception for 19 yards as offensive coordinator Bobby George spread the wealth.
Junior quarterback Tarent Moniz-Babb was in fast-twitch mode from the start with quick passes and smart reads in Waianae’s RPO game. Moniz-Babb was 17-for-21 with 212 yards and touchdown passes for 32 yards to Chayce Gomes and 89 yards to Emmanuelle Carter.
Carter finished with five receptions for 115 yards and Gomes had six grabs for 55 yards. Seven different Seariders had at least one reception, and Waianae’s pass-run ratio was fairly even with 24 rushes.
Defensively, the unit was much more active and aggressive after a learning experience in last week’s loss to Mililani.
“The most improvement you have is between your first and second game. From a coaching standpoint, offensively and defensively we kept our foot on the pedal more. If we have an advantage we want to score as much as possible,” first-year head coach Matt Murakawa said.
Waianae’s defense came up with five interceptions, including two by Alvin Kalahiki IV. The junior safety/cornerback took one of them to the house on a 37-yard snatch and return. Alvin Tai Tin, Shayd Borabora and Dustin Pave also came up with interceptions. Pave dropped a pick near mid-field early in the game, but got his second chance in the second half, returning a deflected pass 40 yards to the end zone.
“Alvin is a quiet guy. He leads by example. His dad (Alvin Kalahiki III) coaches on the JV. Alvin is ‘Bruddah Boy.’ It’s really cool,” Murakawa said. “He’s always been a good player, a solid player for us. He’s actually a safety, but one of our corners got hurt last night. He had a problem so we had to roll Alvin down. That’s the kind of guy he is. He’s a player’s player. The lights come on and he plays.”
Speaking of lights, after the game, the stadium lights went out as Waianae sang its alma mater, and with the entire field pitch dark, the Seariders ran to their locker room as instructed. However, with power out on the Leeward Coast due to a transformer issue, Leilehua’s bus was not able to leave immediately after the game.
The main road reopened before 11 p.m. and the Mules’ bus left Waianae’s campus around 90 minutes after the game ended.
Waianae’s scintillating performance included a dynamic series of plays by Nainoa Nagum. He blocked the PAT kick after Leilehua scored on its initial drive. A moment later, he returned the kickoff 81 yards for a touchdown. He spent much of the night covering the Mules’ talented wide receiver, Keawe Andres, stride for stride. Andres finished with three receptions for 59 yards.
“Andres is their go-to guy, so if you can kind of control him, I don’t think he made any big plays. Then you force the other guys to make plays. That’s what you want on defense,” Murakawa said. “Nainoa is an excellent, natural cornerback. That’s how he plays at practice every day. He’s really aggressive and that’s what we want. His coverage! That’s how he is. He’s a junior. He’s a playmaker type guy.”
Murakawa took the reins after coach Mike Fanoga departed during the summer. Murakawa is a former Searider player, a 1980 graduate and a math teacher on campus. After the Mililani game, defensive coordinator Ryan Lancaster put his unit into a different mindset.
“We didn’t sit in a zone, we attacked more,” Murakawa said. “Our guys played more aggressively. We were soft on the corners last week, and coach Ryan cleaned that up. That’s how we want to play, take the ball away, get them in bad situations.”
Waianae’s front seven set the tone early, closing the gaps quickly on Leilehua’s ground game. The Mules finished with 56 rushing yards on 28 attempts.
“The whole D-line in general. Jamal Plunkett, Joeziah Clifton, Kelsun Feleti. Our outside ‘backers Chanceston Molina, Ola Medeiros,” Murakawa said. “You could see the result of pressure when we brought the extra ‘backer. (The quarterback’s) eyes were down and as the game went on, his eyes were down more, and we’re dictating the pace of their offense.”
Perhaps the most interesting element of Waianae’s win is that Quisquirin-Sabagala didn’t need to be a bell cow type of running back. With the passing game excelling on quick, high-percentage strikes, Quisquirin-Sabagala was often more of a decoy. Waianae also employed occasional hurry-up tempo with their running back as the focal point.
“Kolu is like the heart and soul of our team. We go as well as he does. (Offensive coordinator) Bobby (George) has a balanced offense. He’s going to take whatever they give us. That’s kind of been the knock on us before, we only run the ball, so we wanted to balance that out, so I think we have. But we did run the ball effectively,” Murakawa said.
Waianae finished with 346 yards of total offense, including 134 on the ground. Moniz-Babb had three runs of nine yards or more, and was sacked just once while the Seariders opened a 20-6 lead. Leilehua got to him for a couple of 3-yard losses in the final 16 minutes.
“I think last week (Mililani) got ahead of us and when you do that you can take chances and the game speeds up,” Murakawa said. “We got into a rhythm today and he did too.”
At Raymond Torii Field
Leilehua (0-1, 0-1) 6 0 0 0 — 6
Waianae (1-1, 1-1) 14 6 13 14 — 47
LEI—Xander Muyot 1 run (kick blocked)
WAI—Nainoa Nagum 81 kick return (Kolu Quisquirin-Sabagala kick)
WAI—Quisquirin-Sabagala 6 run (Quisquirin-Sabagala kick)
WAI—Alvin Kalahiki IV 37 interception return (kick failed)
WAI—Chayce Gomes 32 pass from Tarent Moniz-Babb (kick failed)
WAI—Quisquirin-Sabagala 48 run (Joshua Santiago kick)
WAI—Emmanuel Carter 89 pass from Moniz-Babb (Santiago kick)
WAI—Dustin Pave 40 interception return (Santiago kick)
JV—Leilehua 14, Waianae 13.
RUSHING—Lei: Cole Northington 12-25, Malachi Tupai 1-4, Muyot 5-9, Jett Cabal 1-(-2), Pono Arindain 6-11, Kollin Tellain 1-0. Wai: Kolu Quisquirin-Sabagala 15-129, Tarent Moniz-Babb 8-4, Ezekiel Taguchi 1-1.
PASSING—Lei: Muyot 6-14-3-70, Arindain 4-15-2-88. Wai: Moniz-Babb 17-21-0-212.
RECEIVING—Lei: Keawe Andres 3-59, Brayden Furtado 3-40, Northington 2-(-3), Timothy Ewa 1-48, Cabal 1-14. Wai: Emmanuelle Carter 5-115, Chayce Gomes 6-55, Akoni Halemano 2-17, Santiago 1-4, Christian Sansano 1-1, Quisquirin-Sabagala 1-19, Zayah Vincent 1-1.