It was nearly four quarters of some of the best and most evenly matched offense you could ever see in a high school football game, and with plenty on the line.
But in the end, the Waianae Seariders needed 71 seconds worth of the old-time magic … just a little bit of that special something their dads and uncles expended nearly every year while playing for championships in decades past.
They needed to make a stand. And they needed to do so in an environment where defensive game plans were torn up like confetti, where nearly 1,000 yards had been chewed up, and 89 points scored — both records for the state tournament. And roughly half of those yards and points allowed by the guys the Seariders would see in the mirrors when it was over.
Underdog Waianae had managed seven more points than Mililani, but this looked to all like a game that the last team holding the ball would win. And it seemed a lock the Trojans would be that team.
Then the calendar flipped back 30 years, back to when the certainties were death, taxes and Waianae in the Prep Bowl — largely because of its defense.
The last minute and 11 seconds belonged to the Seariders defense — the group that had allowed 41 points, playing for the team with six losses that only got into the state tournament because Kahuku was knocked out on a technicality.
IT CAN, and should, become a part of Waianae’s storied football tradition that took a long break until this year (actually, until just the past few weeks; this team started the year 1-4).
Call it The Stand.
First down … Mililani’s Zachary Payomo runs for 3 yards, to the Waianae 3.
Second down … Joshua Vallesteros-Garcia makes a jarring tackle at the line of scrimmage.
Third down … James Wilson and Hookena Kamana break up a pass in the end zone.
And finally, fourth down … with 1 second left on the clock, the Trojans’ Trent McKinney takes the snap and throws a pass to 6-foot-4 receiver Ervan Jean-Pierre. He is met immediately by 5-foot-9 linebacker Chavez Kauwalu, who ends the game at the 3-yard line. It was like Super Bowl XXXIV, when the Rams’ Mike Jones saved it with a tackle at the 1. But this was more improbable … the team that snuck its way into the tournament played its way into the championship, the old-fashioned way, with a goal-line stand.
"THE CALL was Slide 56 Mike. We’re in zones, just watch your zone," Kauwalu said. "My feeling was to just wait, I never like get juked. Just make the sure tackle."
In addition to perfect execution, it was the right call by defensive coordinator Jason Hussey. Head coach Daniel Matsumoto said that might not have mattered earlier in the season — or maybe even earlier in this game.
"That was our weakness, alignment. If our boys are in the right place, we have a chance. When I go look at the tape, I’ll probably still see a couple guys in the wrong place, and we were lucky the play went where we had coverage," Matsumoto said. "But our boys play with a lot of heart. That, we have no questions about."
MATSUMOTO, WHO looks more like a mild-mannered dean of students (which he is at Waianae) than a football coach, appears more unlikely for his post than even his most undersized players. But like them, the 10th-year head coach is about living up to Waianae’s tradition. He learned his football basics from Seariders legend Larry Ginoza and his storied staff. Matsumoto was a rookie assistant at the tail end of Waianae’s long run of OIA dominance.
"Waianae’s a football community. It brings a lot of pride to the west side," Matsumoto said. "Coach Ginoza was a way better leader than me. I have to work very hard at it."
If any school had to replace Kahuku in the state tournament, it is fitting it is Waianae. Both represent the country schools, both represent a tradition of excellence.
The best thing Waianae could do under the circumstances is prove it belongs.
And that’s exactly what the Seariders did last night — especially in the end, when the Waianae defense turned back the clock for 71 crucial seconds.