JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Moanalua's Dustin Fernandez, right, celebrated as quarterback Stanford Leti charged into the end zone for the Menehunes' first touchdown last night.
It was a Division II game with Division I flavor, thanks to two speedy option quarterbacks on offense and helmet-smashing hits on defense.
After an evenly played first half, Moanalua took control and held on for a 34-20 victory over Kamehameha-Hawaii in the first round of the HHSAA/First Hawaiian Bank Division I State Championships last night at the Menehunes' packed stadium.
"Right now, I love these guys," said Moanalua coach Arnold Martinez, whose team won its first state tournament game and plays Iolani in the semifinals next week. "They (the Warriors) were a tough team and did a fantastic job. We knew it was going to be physical. We told the kids to come out and be more physical than them."
With Moanalua (9-2) leading 14-13 at the half, both teams stayed almost exclusively on the ground in the second half. The Menehunes took the second-half kickoff and drove 80 yards for a score, capped by quarterback Stanford Leti's 3-yard run for a 21-13 lead.
Leti ran, passed and caught passes to help his team move on.
"I'm tired," said Leti, who was shut down by Radford last week in the OIA Division II final. "We learned a lot from this game. Coach says never be satisfied and we want to take it further. We played our game."
The Warriors (10-3) from the Big Island were eliminated, but they didn't go down easily.
Early in the fourth quarter, Kamehameha-Hawaii quarterback Mana Silva hit Daniel Kalai with a screen pass and Kalai did the rest for a 20-yard touchdown to push the issue. Warriors coach Ulima Afoa sent in kicker Leon Peralto instead of going for the tie and Peralto split the uprights for the 21-20 deficit.
"I thought we had a enough time to get the ball back and do something with it," Afoa said. "But Moanalua did a great job holding onto the ball. I am proud of my players. I wish it could have turned out better for them."
The Menehunes did more than hold on to the ball.
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Kamehameha-Hawaii's Daniel Kalai reeled in a pass over Moanalua's Ricky Sierra in the first half of last night's playoff game at Moanalua High School.
Leti engineered another 80-yard drive and Jarin Salvador Atabay scored from 3 yards out for a 28-20 edge with 1:33 left. Leti's 9-yard run on a key fourth down kept the drive going.
With 24 seconds left, J.D. Baba intercepted a Silva pass and ran it back 47 yards to seal the victory.
"The coaches prepared us as best they could for this game," Silva said. "We didn't get the win, but there's more in life. We'll just keep on going."
Chris Aiwohi-Kegler opened the game's scoring, returning a fumble 70 yards for an early 7-0 Kamehameha-Hawaii lead.
The Menehunes took their first-half lead on two big plays -- a 55-yard run by Leti and a 55-yard pass from Leti to Jim Mateo.
The Warriors countered with Kolten Wong's 32-yard TD run, but Silva, the holder on the extra-point try, was forced to run when Moanalua's Quinton Tang got penetration and dropped Silva short of the goal line.
Moanalua's defense came up big late in the first half with a goal-line stand to preserve the 14-13 lead. The Menehunes stopped the Warriors on four plays from the 4 and took over the ball with 6:17 to go before the break.
"That one-point (21-20) lead we had, that was too close," Martinez said. "It was an even game. We've got Iolani next and we respect greatly what coach Wendell Look does with his boys."
Kamehameha-Hawaii's Ian Dulan had two sacks, and Aiwohi-Kegler had an interception to go along with his fumble-return touchdown.
The Menehunes' Ricky Sierra had a fumble recovery and an interception in the third quarter to help keep the Warriors off the board.
It's not too much of a stretch to picture these two up-and-coming football programs playing in Division I in the not-too-distant future. Moanalua is one of the bigger Oahu Interscholastic Association schools in enrollment and Martinez has the squad playing with discipline. Kamehameha-Hawaii is already drawing a share of the football-minded talent with size on the Big Island.
Moanalua 34, Kamehameha-Hawaii 20
At Moanalua H.S. field
KSH--Chris Aiwohi-Kegler 70 fumble return (Leon Peralto kick).
Moan--Stanford Leti 55 run (Landon Watanabe kick).
Moan--Jim Mateo 55 pass from Leti (Watanabe kick).
KSH--Kolten Wong 32 run (run failed).
Moan--Leti 3 run (Watanabe kick).
KSH--Daniel Kalai 20 pass from Mana Silva (Peralto kick).
Moan--Jarin Salvador-Atabay 3 run (Watanabe kick).
Moan--J.D. Baba 47 interception return (run failed).
RUSHING--Kamehameha-Hawaii: Wong 16-63, Mana Silva 15-55. Moanalua: Leti 17-125, John Estores 9-58, Jordan Monico 4-23, Quinton Tang 3-21, Ben Crippen 1-19, Salvador-Atabay 3-18.
PASSING--Kamehameha-Hawaii: Silva 6-15-2-57. Moanalua: Leti 7-15-2-148, Salvador-Atabay 2-2-0-15, Estores 0-2-0-0.
RECEIVING--Kamehameha-Hawaii: Daniel Kalai 3-43, Aiwohi-Kegler 3-14. Moanalua: Estores 3-56, Savaii Eselu 2-28, Leti 2-15, Mateo 1-55, Salvador-Atabay 1-9.