Strength isn’t always found in numbers.
A roster reduced to 13 healthy players prompted Anuenue to forfeit its OIA White opener last month. With the dress list replenished to 19, Na Koa turned misfortune into an advantage and returned to action with a 36-22 win over McKinley last night at Kaiser Stadium.
Powered by an unorthodox double-wing offense designed to keep the clock rolling and the chains moving, Na Koa (1-3, 1-1 OIA White) churned out 391 rushing yards, led by senior Ikaika Gante’s 233 in their first win of the season.
"It means a lot to us," Anuenue coach Kealoha Wengler said. "It boosts the boys’ spirits and their faith in this offense.
"It’s different from everybody else and it took a little bit for them to buy into this offense. But now this boosts their confidence and now they believe in this offense."
After lopsided nonconference losses to Kamehameha and Pearl City, Anuenue’s forfeit of its scheduled game against Kaimuki gave Na Koa some extra time to get healthy and prepare for McKinley (1-3, 1-2).
"When we forfeited last week we were kind of upset," Gante said. "But you just take a step backward to take a step forward. Everybody healed up and showed up this week and practiced super hard."
Na Koa will have another bye before taking on Waialua on Sept. 18 and may need that time to recharge after most of the team played in all three phases.
With little depth, ball control becomes a premium for Anuenue, and Na Koa ran 65 plays for 395 yards in total offense, limiting McKinley to 45 total plays and 183 yards.
The double wing features a compressed alignment with seven linemen bunched shoulder-to-shoulder with the wings just off the outside hip of the tight ends.
Gante carried the ball seven times in a 10-play first-quarter drive that took 5:09 off the clock and ended with Kamea Kahiapo — a 6-foot, 235-pound fullback/defensive lineman — scoring on a 10-yard run.
McKinley’s limited offensive opportunities focused on getting the ball to running back Solomon Dixon, who ran for 121 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown.
Anuenue broke a 14-14 halftime tie on quarterback Mahuka Cullen’s 2-yard touchdown run. After McKinley recovered an onside kick, Dixon accounted for 37 of the Tigers’ 47 yards in an eight-play drive capped by Alex Ironside’s quarterback sneak. Dixon’s 2-point conversion run tied the game at 22.
After an Anuenue fumble, Na Koa stopped McKinley on downs and took possession at their 21 with 9:37 left in the game. Facing third and 1, Cullen fumbled and Gante scooped up the loose ball and raced 45 yards to the McKinley 24.
"(Gante) was injured several times during the game," Wengler said. "He’s a warrior, he’s a lion and he’s going to keep fighting and do whatever he needs to to get back into the game."
Three plays later Makamae Otani-Wengler gave Na Koa the lead for good with a 1-yard run.
Cullen intercepted a pass on McKinley’s next drive and Gante’s 10-yard touchdown run sealed a gratifying win for the Hawaiian immersion school.
"We’ve been at this school since kindergarten, so we’re all brothers," Gante said.
|McKinley (1-3, 1-2)||8||6||0||8||—||22|
|Anuenue (1-2, 1-1)||8||6||8||14||—||36|
Anue–Kamea Kahiapo 13 run (Kahiapo run)
McK–Joash Togiai 1 run (Solomon Dixon run)
Anue–Ikaika Gante 21 run (run failed)
McK–Dixon 17 run (kick failed)
Anue–Mahuka Cullen 2 run (Imaikalani Keama pass from Cullen)
McK–Alex Ironside 1 run (Dixon run)
Anue–Makamae Otani-Wengler 1 run (Kahiapo run)
Anue–Gante 10 run (pass failed)
RUSHING–McK: Dixon 19-121, Quinton Aurio 1-3, Ironside 3-0, Togiai 1-1, Jordan Yoon 3-6, Team 1-(-28). Anue: Gante 29-233, Otani-Wengler 12-45, Kahiapo 7-58, Cullen 6-12, Laakea Manoi-Hyde 3-18, Kakela Lee 1-(-2).
PASSING–McK: Ironside 7-17-1-80. Anue: Cullen 2-6-1-31, Kahiapo 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING–McK: William Rollman 2-7, Jason Guan 3-53, Tristan Ramones 1-7, Jace Bolosan 1-13. Anue: Makana Fernandez 2-31.