Rico Rosario stands alone at the top of Waianae’s long list of powerful running backs through the years.
The 5-foot-8 senior broke West Keliikipi‘s single-game rushing record that stood for 20 years with a 243-yard performance in a 43-20 win over Moanalua on Saturday night at Ticky Vasconcellos Stadium.
Rosario, who nearly left for Liberty High in Nevada in the offseason, opted to stay on the West side for his senior year of high school. It has been a tough first month for Waianae, which lost its first three games and its starting quarterback in the process, but Rosario picked up the slack on Saturday against Na Menehune.
He finished with four touchdowns on 22 carries and carried Waianae to its second straight win, breaking Keliikipi’s mark of 239 rushing yards set against Waipahu in the process.
“It means a lot,” Rosario said. “It’s a true blessing to beat the record and I’ve got to give a shoutout to my O-line. They have been working hard these past couple of weeks and opened up the holes.”
Rosario, who led the state in rushing with 1,266 yards as a junior, has had a rough start to his season. He missed the opener against Saint Louis and was held to 1 total rushing yard in his first two games against Kapolei and Kahuku.
Forced to play quarterback after an injury to starter Justin Tacgere, Rosario moved back to his natural position at running back and followed up a 93-yard, two-touchdown performance against Campbell with his record night against Na Menehune.
“It feels really great now that I can just lead the team and the offense to doing what we usually do — run the ball and pound the ball,” Rosario said. “We’ve got to get back to work on Monday and focus on the next team.”
Although Moanalua entered the game 0-3, Na Menehune played No. 4 Punahou tough in their opener, trailing 14-7 in the fourth quarter. Three weeks later, Moanalua trailed No. 2 Kahuku 12-6 in the third quarter.
Rosario was headed for a quick night Saturday when Waianae exploded out to a 22-0 first-quarter lead. Interception returns by Kana’i Mauga and Braiden Ayala had the Seariders up big less than nine minutes into the game.
Rosario’s 19-yard touchdown run in the second quarter put Waianae ahead 29-0 and gave him 106 rushing yards on his first six carries.
Moanalua hung tough from then on and responded after falling behind 36-0 in the third quarter with three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, forcing Rosario to come back into the game with Waianae’s lead down to 36-14.
Rosario carried the ball six times and had a 15-yard run to the 2 to break Keliikipi’s mark. After a penalty on Moanalua and a failed run by Waianae, Rosario finished the game with his fourth touchdown run on a 1-yard plunge to give Waianae more points against Moanalua than it had scored in its first four games combined.
Waianae failed to complete a pass in a game for the first time since a 90-0 win over McKinley in 2015. Rosario had 243 of Waianae’s 356 total yards.
“I think we did good. We got mistakes here and there but we can go back to practice and fix those,” Rosario said. “When we play as a team, we can do a lot of great things when we just come out hard.”
After such a tough schedule to start the year, Waianae has a good chance to run the table with five straight wins entering the OIA playoffs with games against Radford, Kaiser and Aiea left in the regular season.