Waianae’s offense finally shows some balance

Waianae quarterback Justin Tacgere is working his way back from an injury and getting closer to 100 percent. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.

There are a few stats that come screaming off the page after No. 6 Waianae’s 44-0 homecoming victory over Aiea on Friday:

>> The Seariders rushed for 158 yards (which also means Aiea’s defense held them to those yards) and passed for 144 for a super-balanced offense.

>> Waianae will have won five games in a row when next weeks’s forfeit victory over Kaiser becomes official, and those five wins came after three straight losses to open the season — against No. 1 Saint Louis, No. 2 Kahuku and then-No. 5 Kapolei.

>> Aiea could not establish a rushing game and were held to minus-24 yards on the ground.

>> Despite the mad scrambling of Na Alii’s Ty Matsunami, the Waianae defense found an answer to thwart him. The Seariders’ defense put a touchdown on the board — Kaimana Swann-Merritt‘s interception and 32-yard return — and the hard-nosed unit set up another score — Tytyn Kahooilihala‘s fumble recovery and 68-yard return.

Both teams will now prepare for the Oahu Interscholastic Association playoffs and can do it with the luxury of byes next week. There are two different outlooks as well. Waianae is gunning for the big boys. Aiea (2-5, 2-5 OIA Blue), while not throwing in the towel, is more or less fortunate to be continuing on.

“We’re working on getting better at what we do,” said Seariders senior running back Rico Rosario, who rushed for 104 yards and scored a touchdown rushing and another receiving. “It’s a good feeling to score, but I have to thank my O-line for working hard and everybody else working with me on the field, all 11.

“Everybody is hungry to win a championship. Our coaches tell us defense wins championships and offense wins games. The defense has been looking good these last couple of games and we can’t wait until we play one of the top teams. I think we’re ready. We can’t wait. We just want to battle with all the top teams out there.”

Waianae (which will be 5-3 and 5-2) can lock up a first-round bye in the playoffs if Kahuku beats Campbell next week.

“Tonight, these kids played well,” Seariders coach Walter Young said. “Offensively and defensively, they did what they had to do. Aiea is a scrappy team. Their numbers are kind of smaller, but they came out and competed. When we needed big plays, the defense came up with the big plays. The offense moved the ball. It was a great team win. We’re going to let the kids enjoy senior night, come back on Monday and get ready there.”

Matsunami, who was elusive and made things happen for the Aiea offense despite not getting them into the end zone, was sacked three times — by Kahooilihala, Kawika Samenti-Nakoa and Dayne Evangelista.

Ezekiel Ayala added an interception for Waianae, and Kanai Mauga had a tackle for loss.

Mauga also said “hello” to Aiea freshman backup quarterback Christian Rapis in the fourth quarter. Rapis, who showed off a strong arm despite going just 2-for-8, did his best Matsunami imitation by scrambling away from two rushers and looking to hoof it for yardage. As he neared the line of scrimmage, Mauga, one of the best defenders in the state, came sprinting up and moved side to side as if to say, “Which way are you going.”

Rapis showed his smarts by hitting the turf — and fast — before Mauga could pounce. Mauga then showed a bit of sportsmanship by helping Rapis up.

“We’ll be fine,” Na Alii coach Wendell Say said. “We’ve gotta fix up a lot of things. We can’t give a team touchdowns on big plays like that (Rosario scored on a 52-yard pass from Justin Tagcere and a on 75-yard run, and Tacgere fired a 38-yard scoring pass to Skyler Kaleohi). “We gotta cut out those mistakes. Some guys are thinking they’re going to do everything by themselves and then they have it backfire on them.

“Ty and our receivers did a great job. We Need to balance ourselves more. Isaiah Ripley is a linebacker and a running back who we’ve been using more at linebacker. He plays two physical positions. He’s got to get back into that type of (two-way) shape again.”

Senior Ferenisi Lualemana had a huge game on the defensive line for Na Alii, with two tackles for loss and a fumble recovery.

“He’s only so tall,” said a reporter to Say about Lualemana.

“But he’s wide,” Say added.

Lualemana, who played along the defensive line with his sister, Avei Lualemana, when he was a freshman, is 5 foot 9 and 330 pounds.

Lualemana and Say are gearing up for their shot to keep the season going, the playoffs.

“We’re not even sure who we’re going to play,” Say said. “It’s going to be tough. We look forward to it and we’re just happy to be in it. It’s the second season.”

Added Lualemana: “It was a good regular season. Even though we took a lot of defeats, we can build from this. All we gotta do is trust God, pick up our plans and run with it. I was proud that (we moved the ball). I was telling the team, ‘Hey, the only way we can do this is stick together as a family. If we stick together, we’ll come out triumphant. We’ll come back next game. We’ll come back in the playoffs. Trust me. We will.”

And Say will miss the big boy when next season rolls around.

“Sam’s a great player,” he said. “He’s been with us four years, so he knows what our expectations are and he does an excellent job. He’s grown a lot and he’s a great team player. You can’t ask for anything more than that. It’s going to be a tough loss next year after losing him.”

Tacgere, who is still not all the way recovered from an ankle injury, could be just what the doctor ordered for Waianae. The junior threw for 144 yards and two TDs, and the threat of the pass opened up the run.

“He’s healthier, but not 100 percent,” Young said. “It’s a good thing we’ve got next week to get him 100 percent. He’s doing a little better. The older kids are helping him out … the seniors are helping out our team a lot.”

Speaking of seniors, it seems like the Seariders have a million of them. They were introduced to the Waianae fans after Friday’s game and it took a good, long time. The roster lists 36 seniors.


  1. Red Rooster September 23, 2017 3:41 am

    Number 5 on Waianae made a good stop. He’s a big buggah. Hope he goes far. Good job Waianae. Playoffs baby!!

  2. HI HS FAN September 23, 2017 10:02 am

    Waianae is the dark horse in the OIA. After a shaky and tentative start they have begun to show that they will be a team to reckon with as they head into the OIA playoffs. A Kahuku win over Campbell next week will give Waianae a first round bye and second seed from the Blue Division. Their offense with Rosario back as a RB and their O-line dominating in the trenches proves their running game is gaining momentum. Defensively, Maunga & company is improving and could be the key during their run in the playoffs and a berth in the D1 state championship.

  3. LeewardCoastRidah September 26, 2017 8:22 am

    Waianae baby!!!! This team is coming along. Cmon Oline, gotta protect.

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