Waipahu’s young defense bends, doesn’t break in win over Kailua

Waipahu's Faapaia Fualema (41) recovered a fumble during the second half against Kailua in this 2019 game. Photo by Andrew Lee/Special to the Star-Advertiser.

The Waipahu Marauders weren’t about to get greedy, not after an up-and-down season one year removed from a state championship.

In fact, with all the talent that graduated, particularly on defense, Waipahu was happy to be ahead of a dangerous Kailua squad 14-0 with six minutes left to play on Saturday night. The Surfriders, who had been hampered by a missed block here, a crooked pass route there, finally punched in with less than 6 minutes left, and then got a wide-open look that turned into a 45-yard touchdown from Cameron Friel to Landon Clevenger.

The visitors came up short on the two-point conversion and Waipahu pulled out a 14-12 win to finish third in OIA Division I with a 4-2 mark. The Marauders will meet runner-up Leilehua in the first round of the playoffs next Friday at Hugh Yoshida Stadium, which means defensive coordinator Ron Johnson and his staff will have some time to shore up the breakdowns. For three-plus quarters, though, the young Marauders shut out Kailua.


“One thing we’ve got to work on, we’ve got about nine freshmen that’s playing. A lot of them are still learning the game, so we’re trying to make it as simple as we possibly can,” Johnson said. “I’ll take the first three quarters. Sometimes they get content with the lead and think, oh we got the game, and didn’t play all the way through. It’s just being young, being babies.”

He credited seniors Manuele Pulusila, Tyrone Niuatoa and Fiva Tulafale for their leadership. Third-quarter picks by Samu Niuatoa and Logan Lauti were huge factors. The first half was bend-but-don’t-break mode by the defense. Kailua had four possessions begin in Waipahu territory, but failed to score. When Friel got time and took deep shots late in the game, a whole new world opened, but it was too little too late.

It was the second win in a row for the Black Flag over the Surfriders. Last year, Waipahu won at Alex Kane Stadium 12-6 in double overtime. Prior to that, Kailua had won three in a row. Kailua has not won at Waipahu since 2000.

The Surfriders will get Moanalua in the OIA playoffs with a state-tournament berth on the line.


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