A tie game on the scoreboard was a resounding win for the Hawaii Kai football community on Friday night.
For the first time in 23 months, Kaiser Stadium hosted a football game involving the home team as the Cougars played Aiea to a 12-12 tie in the season opener for both teams.
It won’t go down as a win in the record book for Kaiser and coach Tim Seaman, but it felt like one considering what the program went through a year ago.
The Cougars played their first home game since Sept. 30, 2016 against Kahuku after forfeiting all but one of their games last season due to a variety of issues that basically wiped out an entire season of football in Hawaii Kai.
“We appreciate them coming out and giving us their support and we hope they come back,” Seaman said of the crowd. “We hope (for) all our home games the atmosphere (is) as positive as it was tonight. I think it was good for the school and again we continue to progress and move forward.”
Senior quarterback Koa Tom rushed for two touchdowns and sophomore Mason Yoshino caught four passes for 98 yards in his first game with the varsity.
“It was a very exciting night,” Yoshino said. “On the first kick return I was looking into the stands and listening to the band and it just got me excited.”
Injuries to both starting quarterbacks had both Aiea coach Wendell Say and Seaman concerned after the game.
Tom, who spun out of multiple tackles and scored on a 10-yard jaunt on the final play of the first quarter to give Kaiser a 12-0 lead, had to leave the game in the third quarter, two plays after taking a hard hit from Aiea two-way standout Zach Kalahiki-Basque.
Junior Kayson Castillo started at quarterback for Na Alii and threw for 234 yards and two touchdowns but had to leave the game on a key fourth-down play late in the fourth quarter.
Sophomore Jordan Cezar replaced Castillo and converted on the play to move the chains but was knocked out of the game on a fourth-down run a minute later.
Fabian Bautista, a receiver and defensive back, finished the game at quarterback for Na Alii, who called up the entire junior varsity team for this game in order to field a team.
“It was tough getting our two quarterbacks hurt and hopefully we can get them back soon,” Say said. “We have a bunch of kids that we think can do some things that didn’t play and we’ll get them back next week. I thought the kids we brought up did a heckuva job.”
Kalahiki-Basque, who also forced a fumble on defense, put Aiea on the board with a 20-yard touchdown catch and finished with 10 receptions for 141 yards.
All four touchdowns were scored by the team with the wind at its back.
SATURDAY GAMES: NONLEAGUE
>> ‘Iolani vs. Kalani at Kaiser Stadium, 6 p.m.
>> Konawaena at Kahuku, 6 p.m.
>> Hilo at Campbell, 6 p.m.
>> Roosevelt at Nanakuli, 6:30 p.m.
>> Kailua at Mililani, 6:30 p.m.
>> St. Francis at Radford, 6:30 p.m.
>> Lahainaluna vs. Kapaa, at Vidinha Stadium, 7 p.m.
>> Pearl City at Kealakehe, 7:30 p.m.
Kaiser led 12-0 after the first quarter and Aiea tied the game before halftime when Castillo hit Bautista on a 10-yard throw.
Neither team could score in the second half as the game was played almost entirely between the 20-yard lines.
Kaiser’s Noah Stinson stopped Cezar on a fourth-down run to get the Cougars the ball back and Bautista had a late interception on defense for Na Alii to keep the game tied.
Aiea will host Nanakuli on Friday in its Division I opener, while Kaiser will host Kalaheo the same night in its first Division II game since winning the state title in 2013.