From the time he started playing Pop Warner ball, Justin Pagan’s football aspirations included running on the turf at Aloha Stadium.
Now a senior quarterback at Kalaheo, Pagan gave himself that very opportunity by helping to power the Mustangs to the Oahu Interscholastic Association White conference championship game with a 43-28 semifinal win over Waipahu last night.
Kalaheo (6-3) will face regular-season champion Kaimuki for the OIA White title Nov. 5 at Aloha Stadium. The Mustangs will also join the Bulldogs in the HHSAA Division II state tournament.
"It’s a childhood dream," Pagan said. "I looked forward to playing in the stadium and now I’m getting that chance. It’s a great feeling."
Pagan will have two weeks to recover from a rugged two-way performance in which he rushed for 105 yards and two touchdowns in operating a Kalaheo offense that reached the end zone on five of its first six possessions. He also completed four of his five passes for 104 yards and a touchdown.
Running back Jesse Carney ran for 113 yards and two scores, the second giving Kalaheo a 43-7 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Waipahu (6-3) put together a spirited rally late, recovering two onside kicks and returning a fumble for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. But the deficit proved too much to overcome as Kalaheo avenged a regular-season loss to the Marauders.
"We love (it) because the football season gets to last a little bit longer for us," Kalaheo head coach Chris Mellor said. "At the minimum we get to play football for three more weeks, and that’s what we talked about all week.
After the Kalaheo defense forced a three and out to open the game, the Mustangs fed Carney on five of their first seven offensive plays and Pagan capped the 56-yard drive with a 7-yard keeper around the right side for the game’s first score.
"We just did what we’re good at, ground and pound," Pagan said. "Chip away, 3, 4 yards a play. That’s all we do."
On Kalaheo’s next possession, Pagan scrambled to his right, then lofted a pass back to his left, where Nainoa Frank was waiting alone. The 64-yard gain moved the Mustangs to the Waipahu 20 and Pagan scored on a quarterback sneak six runs later to push the Kalaheo lead to 14-0.
The Waipahu defense provided the Marauders’ first scoring opportunity when Tafatolu Naea scooped up a mishandled lateral and returned it to the Kalaheo 9. Victor Moananu, who finished with 152 yards on 32 carries, then blasted up the middle on the next play to bring Waipahu to within a score with 5:41 left in the second quarter.
But Carney returned the ensuing kickoff 32 yards and the Mustangs methodically chewed up the clock, converting two fourth downs along the way, and Pagan connected with Frank on a fade route down the right side for a 27-yard score with 28.5 seconds left before halftime.
After Carney scored on a 33-yard run with 9:37 left in the game, Waipahu scored on a 1-yard run by Devin Kaneshiro and converted its first onside kick recovery into Moananu’s second touchdown of the game.
Wesley Nagaseu’s fumble return for a touchdown with 46.5 seconds remaining brought the Marauders within two scores. But the last onside kick attempt dribbled out of bounds to effectively end Waipahu’s season.
"I’m so proud of my kids, the resilience they showed," Waipahu coach Sean Saturnio said. "It’s been a blessing to coach these guys. … I love these guys like my sons."
Kalh–Justin Pagan 7 run (Danielle Ferguson kick)
Kalh–Pagan 1 run (Ferguson kick)
Waip–Victor Moananu 9 run (Brysen Kaseli kick)
Kalh–Nainoa Frank 27 pass from Pagan (Ferguson kick)
Kalh–Jesse Carney 13 run (Jason Matalolo pass from Pagan)
Kalh–Sage Richardson 50 interception return (Ferguson kick)
Kalh–Carney 33 run (Ferguson kick)
Waip–Devin Kaneshiro 1 run (Kaseli kick)
Waip–Moananu 1 run (kick failed)
Waip–Wesley Nagaseu 12 fumble return (Mark Bumanglag run)
RUSHING–Kalaheo: Carney 15-113, Pagan 20-105, Anthony Maglinti 4-10. Waipahu: Moananu 32-152, Bumanglag 10-56, Tydro Ate-Taito 2-10, Kaneshiro 2-5, Jahlove Amadeo 3-(minus 3), Drake Yoshioka 1-(minus 8), .
PASSING–Kalaheo: Pagan 4-5-0-104. Waipahu: Bumanglag 0-3-0-0, Yoshioka 2-3-1-70.
RECEIVING–Kalaheo: Frank 3-101, Maglinti 1-3. Waipahu: Moananu 1-5, Kaseli 1-65.
JV–Waipahu 20, Pearl City 13