This post was inches away from being about Aiea.
But thanks to quarterback Kai Mercado-Aiona’s heroics, Waipahu stole the show and the game on Saturday with a last-second touchdown to win 20-19 over Na Alii. Mercado-Aiona had to fully extend to get the ball across the goal line on the game’s final play.
The win all but eliminated snakebitten Aiea (0-4) from playoff contention and gave Waipahu (1-2) a fighting chance at the OIA Red West playoffs.
“It’s pretty big,” Mercado-Aiona said of the win, capped off by the Marauders’ 70-yard drive with a little over two minutes remaining. “It’s so touching, the feeling, a crazy experience that I’ll never forget. Super awesome.”
Coach Eric Keola’s team still has plenty of work to do to qualify for one of six (corrected from five) West playoff berths. Up next are daunting games at Waianae and at Campbell, capped off with the regular-season finale at home against Leilehua. A true gauntlet.
Meanwhile, Aiea has to win out at home against Leilehua and, most difficult of all, on the road at Mililani to give itself a chance. Na Alii coach Wendell Say should be commended for talking to the media in the immediate aftermath of such a difficult loss as the Waipahu game.
“It’s tough. It’s hard. The kids played hard. They played their hearts out,” Say said. “But it’s always a learning (experience) and we got two more games. Hopefully we can turn it around.”
For one night, the Marauders salvaged their season and could raise the Jolly Roger high.