Wyatt Nahale‘s first game as the Kealakehe head coach could very well have ended in a disaster.
But the Waveriders players dug deep and preserved a 13-7 victory over Pearl City at the Chargers’ home field on Saturday night.
“We found a way to make it work,” Nahale said with the win in hand and the ability to go back home to the Big Island with that pleasant feeling that comes with it. “In the end, it pretty much came down to who wanted it.”
Pearl City’s players, despite a sluggish start, proved they wanted it, too, but they came up just short.
Trailing 13-0 and after having punted the ball away most of the night, the Chargers finally got it in gear and drove 88 yards for a touchdown. Passes from Adam Puchert of 40 yards to Isaiah Cruz-Amerperosa and then 26 to Joshua Gleason paved the way for Alii Gaspar‘s 15-yard touchdown catch from Puchert. That made it 13-7.
A bit later, Pearl City had a last gasp chance to tie it or go ahead, thanks to Herbert Hallers‘ interception at the Kealakehe 40, but a 10-yard sack by the Waveriders’ Kristian Delima on Puchert put an end to that comeback bid.
Nahale can now say he is 1-0 with momentum going into the team’s BIIF season opener against Konawaena on Aug. 17.
“I thought we had a great chance to wrap it up, when we pinned them deep,” Nahale said. “But they made a great play and that playmaker (Gaspar) got into the end zone. That one series, we gave it up. (Other than that), our defense played a heckuva game.
“We’ll take the victory and learn from it and move forward. All in all, I’m proud of how we hung in there, despite (struggles on offense).”
Waveriders quarterback Shaynen-Wyatt Nahale threw two touchdown passes, including a dart to Hunter Wehrsig. He connected with Deven Wagner on the other TD, also from 28 yards out in building the 13-point lead.
“Hats off to all the linemen and everyone on the field who helped make it happen,” said Wehrsig, who made an over-the-shoulder diving catch for his six points that broke a 0-0 tie in the second quarter.
In the first half, Pearl City’s Landon Chang missed field goals of 39 and 47 yards, and Kealakehe’s Lopaki Acia missed a 38-yard field-goal attempt.
“The coaches saw a mismatch on the backside and called it,” Wehrsig said about the go-ahead TD. “We needed a score.”
About the BIIF wars that are coming up, he added, “We’ve got to stay strong and keep everyone healthy.”
Pearl City coach Robin Kami liked the fire his team showed in coming back.
“That tells me that the kids don’t give up and they believe until the last second of the game,” he said.
The Chargers visit Kaiser on Friday for their first OIA Division II game of the season.
Gaspar, whose touchdown was his first on the varsity, believes his team is going to have a special season. And he was believing all the way until the final second on Saturday night.
“I was super hype,” he said about the late rally. “I thought we were going to come back. I was telling my teammates ‘Let’s go, let’s keep working bruh!’
“When I made that touchdown, I was excited,” he said. “I mostly did it for my family, my teammates, my coaches and my friends. Everybody did all right. They were trying their best.”