Waipahu’s motivation this entire season is to make sure it doesn’t end like the one before.
After Friday’s resounding 56-0 win over McKinley at Roosevelt to close out the regular season, the Marauders (8-0, 7-0 OIA Division II) are in a position to achieve that goal.
Last year’s edition was the top seed in the OIA Division II playoffs, made it to the championship game, and lost 36-35 to Waialua. Their next game was the first round of the state playoffs, which was a 52-14 rout to eventual Division II state champion Lahainaluna.
This season’s team heads into the playoffs as one of only three undefeated teams left in the state, but those losses are still fresh in their minds.
“I think it’s helped us all season,” Waipahu coach Bryson Carvalho said of the Waialua loss. “If you look back at that game, we were 1 yard short of prolonging a drive that potentially could have put us ahead.”
Indeed, the Marauders were working on a game-winning drive in that matchup. Facing fourth-and-1 on the Waialua 34 with 43 seconds remaining, quarterback Braden Amorozo fumbled the snap, sealing the win for the Bulldogs.
Being that close to a championship has fueled Amorozo to a stellar senior season, but he knows he still has yet to finish what he started.
“We need to learn from last year. We clinched the top seed but we didn’t get to the goal we wanted to get to,” Amorozo said. “We’re still chasing that championship, but we gotta take it one game at a time.”
The Marauders are set to take on Roosevelt in the semifinals, a team that they beat 35-8 on Aug. 25. A loss would eliminate Waipahu. That would mean no avenging and no championship. The Rough Riders are a different team and will take a three-game winning streak into the matchup, and Amorozo knows it.
“They’re a hard team and they really changed from the beginning,” he said. “We just gotta prepare differently for that.”
The Marauders will have to top two teams they’ve already beaten to get an OIA championship, regardless of who they’ll face if they advance.
Carvalho has reminded his team to not overlook any opponent, especially with so much at stake.
“They just gotta stay grounded. Just have a head-down, work-hard attitude,” Carvalho said. “That’s been our goal too. We gotta learn from our past.
“These kids love our community and want to bring one home. It shows in their work ethic at practice and it’s showing in games, too.”