With two losses now, it is doubtful No. 9 Waianae will maintain its spot in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Top 10 when the new rankings come out Monday.
The Seariders made a gallant comeback Friday night at Raymond Torii Field, but were outclassed 46-27 by No. 8 Leilehua (3-0, 3-0).
Despite constant hassling by its defensive line, Waianae (1-2, 1-2 OIA Red) had no real answer for Leilehua’s clockwork offense.
And the pressure the Seariders put on three Mules quarterbacks was extremely intense. They finished with eight sacks, but Leilehua singed the Waianae secondary for six TD passes, including three by Kalanimoku Pauole.
Maika Koko, a 6-foot-1, 265-pound senior defensive lineman for the Seariders, turned in a monster game. He was credited with four sacks, but he was a part of five of the team’s eight (three solos and two half-sacks).
“He’s been playing his heart out,” Waianae head coach Daniel Matsumoto said after the game that didn’t start until 9:05 p.m. and ended close to midnight. “He is a good captain for us.”
Nayton Kuresa, a 6-1, 225-pound senior, also dealt some punishment to the Mules’ offense with three-and-a-half sacks (two solos and three half-sacks).
Ikaika Paaoao-Ahina also made his presence felt on defense for Waianae with a 32-yard interception return for a touchdown. David Torres came through with a pick, and Noah Kealoha recovered a fumble.
“We broke down in our coverage,” Matsumoto said. “Credit Leilehua’s offense, which is always consistent. They’re well-coached and they took advantage of our inconsistent play. As usual, our focus this week will be on what we’re doing wrong and how can we better our team. Maybe we’re taking the losses too well, I don’t know. But I am proud that our players managed their emotions.”
One thing is for certain in spite of the loss. Waianae does not give up. Period.
In both of their losses, the Seariders battled back from large deficits to make the score much more respectable.
Mules head coach Nolan Tokuda knows about the pride of the Waianae players and their comeback ability.
“They keep coming,” Tokuda said. “Look at the score (Leilehua led by as many as 27 points before winning by 19). If people are wondering, that’s why we kept on throwing. We needed to keep trying to score. They can strike quick and there is no quit in them.”
Koko said the never-give-up attitude was reinforced by the Seariders’ coaches at halftime.
“They were hyping us up, just to be sure that we came out for the second half with the right attitude, a better attitude,” Koko said.
Offensively, Waianae wide receiver Stanton Spencer showed his big-play ability with four catches for 92 yards and a 15-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Jorell Pontes, who played the game’s first series before giving way to senior Ioane Kaluhiokalani, the team’s primary signal-caller. Pontes also finished up the final few minutes.
Nine players carried the ball for the Seariders, and John Barbieto led the way with 31 yards on 12 carries against Leilehua’s stingy defense.
A home game against McKinley is next in line for Waianae (1-2) on Friday night.
“We need more discipline and we need to learn from our mistakes,” Koko said. “We’re coming out for the win (against McKinley) and we’ve just got to play harder.”