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Warriors reach title game
The generosity of the Kamehameha Warriors extended all the way to the Lahainaluna High School band, which stayed overnight at the Kapalama campus.
That kindness didn't extend beyond the gate to Aloha Stadium last night. Jayson Rego rumbled for 170 yards as Kamehameha doused Lahainaluna 21-6 in the semifinals of the First Hawaiian Bank State Football Championships.
A crowd of 9,129 watched a game that was tight until the final quarter.
"Jayson always carries a big load," Kamehameha coach Kanani Souza said of Rego, who had 30 attempts. "Our defense played a super game."
Kamehameha (9-2-1) advanced to the final with the win. The Warriors meet Leilehua, which stunned No. 1-ranked Kahuku 17-14 in the earlier semifinal.
"There's no words to describe this feeling," Rego said. "It's awesome to be going to the state championship game. It looked like they started to get tired and we decided as a whole to pick it up and we got that extra boost. I never could have imagined this."
It is the first appearance in the state title game for Kamehameha and Leilehua.
"I don't want to think about Leilehua yet. They almost beat Kahuku the first time, and then they beat 'em tonight," Souza said. "We'll relax a bit, and tomorrow morning, we'll start working on that game."
Lahainaluna, champion of the Maui Interscholastic League, finished the season 9-2-1.
"They just played better than us, period," Lahainaluna linebacker Ikavalu Sake said. "I give them a lot of credit.
Lunas quarterback Preston Medeiros wasn't quite as generous.
"I feel we should've won. We made too many little mistakes," the senior said. "We played a 'C' game. Kamehameha played a helluva game and beat us."
Veteran coach Bobby Watson's team made a turnaround this fall after 17 defeats in the last two years.
"I've known Bobby and Lanny (Tihada)," Souza said. "I respect this outfit. It was a struggle all night. They had a great scheme."
It was a resilient effort by the Lunas, who saw fans arrive on Oahu by plane and boat.
The Warriors struck first, driving 64 yards in just seven plays. Rego and the offensive line set the tone. The Wailuku resident carried the ball five times for 29 yards, setting up the score. Kamehameha quarterback Pono Kam executed the play-action and found Ikaika Hardie in the end zone on a wheel route for a 33-yard touchdown play.
Kepa Gaison's point-after kick made it 7-0 Kamehameha with 1:03 remaining in the first quarter.
Kamehameha's defense was impenetrable in the first half, forcing the Lunas into four punts and an interception. The Warrior offense drove to the Lahainaluna 15-yard line with 4 minutes left in the half, and Rego scored on a run off right tackle. However, the play was negated by a holding penalty.
On fourth-and-6, Kam overthrew Waika Spencer at the 5-yard line, and Lahainaluna dodged a bullet. Right behind Spencer, who is 6-foot-5, was Hardie, alone in the end zone, but unseen by Kam.
By intermission, Kamehameha had the edge in rushing yardage (114-82) and passing yardage (37-0). Rego, who played at Baldwin as a freshman, had 82 yards on 13 carries (6.3 yards per attempt) in the first half.
Even the Warriors' special teams had an edge, thanks to two punts by Gaison for an average of 57 yards.
Lahainaluna stayed in the game thanks to good clock management -- 12 minutes, 54 seconds to Kamehameha's 11:06, -- and zero turnovers.
Lahainaluna drove 85 yards in six plays. Medeiros, who called time out after his team lined up on a key third-and-8 play, connected with tight end Stanley Malamala on a fly route for a 64-yard gain to the Warrior 4-yard line. After a Kamehameha penalty moved the ball half the distance to the goal line, Medeiros took a muddle-huddle snap and raced to the pylon for a 2-yard touchdown run.
The PAT try by Colby Wyckoff, however, was wide left. Kamehameha had a 7-6 lead with 5:30 remaining in the third quarter.
Moments later, a rollout pass from Kam to Kamuela Kapanui was intercepted by Glen Kuresa, who returned the ball 24 yards to the Kamehameha 24-yard line.
However, the Lunas went three-and-out, with the Warrior defense stopping Paul Maielua on fourth-and-3 at the 17-yard line.
"That was the turning point," Watson said. "We failed to get it in the end zone."
"Our defense came back and did the job," he said.
The Warriors later got a 35-yard punt return by Hardie, and they turned to Rego for every yard on a six-play, 31-yard drive. The 5-8, 160-pound senior scored on a 3-yard burst off right tackle, and Gaison's PAT gave the Warriors a 14-6 lead with 7:17 remaining in the game.
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