Kekaulike Grabs Upcountry Bragging Rights
By Rodney S. Yap
Upcountry rivals — King Kekaulike High School and Kamehameha Maui — settled early-season bragging rights Friday, when the public-school boys handed their head coach Kyle Sanches his second league win in three head-to-head challenges with Kamehameha Maui.
King Kekaulike erased a seven-point, first-half deficit (13-6) with a pair of clutch third-quarter scores en route to a 23-13 triumph before an estimated crowd of 1,000 at Kanaiaupuni Stadium on the Warrior campus.
Na Alii improved to 1-1 in the Maui Interscholastic League (Div. II) and 1-2 overall. Kamehameha Maui fell to 0-3. The Warriors lost for a school-record ninth straight time since shutting out King Kekaulike 29-0 in last year’s season opener at home.
Friday’s matchup proved to be a physical affair on both sides of the ball, which led to a handful of injuries and opportunities for underclassmen to make an immediate impact.
The biggest contributor was Na Alii backup quarterback Kawika Akahi, who sparked his team offensively with a 43-yard breakaway touchdown run with 9 minutes, 32 seconds left in the third quarter. The score capped a five-play, 68-yard drive that tied the game at 13-13.
Akahi, who came into the game with 6 yards rushing on six carries, finished with 134 yards on 14 carries — many of which extended drives on third down and then later ate up time off the game clock.
“He got a lot of reps last year as the starting junior varsity quarterback,” Sanches said of the 5-foot, 9-inch, 160-pound Akahi. “That’s why he’s so comfortable and confident executing the read-option, and he has a knack for running the ball. When you include (Kawika) Homalon, Laakea (Day) and (Jacob) Ramos, that’s a pretty talented backfield.”
Kekaulike used all three quarterbacks on its roster, even last year’s reserve QB Jesse Chavez saw action.
“How many teams use three quarterbacks in one game, and they are not all the same type of quarterbacks, but we got production from each one of them and the rest of the offense is comfortable with whoever is in the game.”
Akahi wound up getting a large majority of the snaps after regular starter Homalon, who did not play in the first quarter and left the game with a shoulder injury in the third quarter.
Akahi also made plays defensively, capping a five-play sequence that included four consecutive turnovers in the red zone with a huge interception. He was also stellar as a punter for the second straight week. Against Lahainaluna he averaged 39.5 yards on five punts.
“Kamehameha’s defense played well, too, and they are a lot like us with guys going two ways and stuff. They have some tough kids,” Sanches said.
King Kekaulike was able to build a cushion with its head defense when a bad snap by KS-Maui was bobbled by Kamehameha quarterback Chase Newton and Na Alii linebacker Drevyn Tavares picked up the loose ball and sored from 6 yards out to give Na Alii a 20-13 lead.
“When you stay focused, good things happen,” Sanches noted. “For us it wasn’t just the cross-town rival, it was a Division II game and for us to continue to move forward we have to win these games.”
The Warriors committed eight fumbles coming into the game, more than half of which occurred during the long snap from center to quarterback. It happened on the first play of the game for them with freshman quarterback Kainoa Sanchez and it happened again to Newton and resulted in six points for Kekaulike.
Na Alii hosts Baldwin at King Kekaulike Stadium on Friday, Sept. 12. Kamehameha Maui has a bye this week, returning on Friday, Sept. 19, against Baldwin at Kanaiaupuni Stadium. Both games start at 7 p.m.
In MIL 8-man football on Friday, at War Memorial Stadium, Seabury Hall defeated Ka’u, 61-40.
Friday’s MIL Football Summary
At Kanaiaupuni Stadium
NA ALII 23, WARRIORS 13
King Kekaulike ……….. 0 ….. 6 ….. 14 ….. 3—23
Kamehameha Maui ….. 6 ….. 7 ……. 0 ….. 0—13
KM—Ikaika Chong Kee 77 run (kick failed), 3:13.
KK—Corry Brown 82 punt return (kick blocked), 7:42.
KM—Keoni Keanini 10 pass from Kainoakeola Sanchez (Kealaula Keliikoa kick), 1:41.
KK—Kawika Akahi 43 run (Brown kick), 9:32.
KK—Drevyn Tavares 6 fumble return (Brown kick), 5:36.
KK—Brown 30 FG, 5:39.
* Individual statistics complied by Rob Collias of The Maui News.