Shepherd Kekahuna remembers the helpless feeling of Oct. 19, 2018.
Then a junior at St. Francis, that was the day he found out the team’s season was over due to the Saints being disqualified for the use of an ineligible player.
Kekahuna didn’t know that Saturday marked a year ago to the day, but he certainly played like someone laying hold of his final opportunity to play for a state title.
The Roosevelt senior scored three touchdowns, all in the first quarter, to set the tone in a 57-23 rout of Waialua. The victory puts Roosevelt in the OIA Division II championship game for the second straight season. It also gives the Rough Riders an automatic bid in the Division II HHSAA championships.
“Just knowing that I came into a team where the bond is also close and everyone has the same mind-set of playing for family, it just gives me motivation to go forward,” Kekahuna said on Saturday night.
The Rough Riders started fast, forcing a three-and-out on the opening possession of the game, then scoring on Kekahuna’s 3-yard rushing touchdown with 9:06 left in the first half. Kekahuna touched the ball on offense just one other time in the first half, but it was good for his second 3-yard touchdown to put the Rough Riders on top 13-0 with 2:05 to go in the opening period.
Kekahuna added to the torrid start when he returned a punt for a 56-yard score as time expired in the first quarter.
Waialua got on the board in the second quarter with Kayde Mahuka’s 37-yard field goal and Blazen Benz’s 20-yard touchdown reception from backup quarterback Justyce Laca with eight seconds left in the first half. Kyler Dicion started the game behind center for the Bulldogs and struggled, completing just four of his 20 first-half passes for a total of 22 yards.
Roosevelt’s aerial attack, meanwhile, gashed the Waialua defense. Rough Riders quarterback Sky Ogata completed 14 of his 17 passes in the first half, spreading the ball among seven different receivers for 104 yards.
Rushing touchdowns by Myka Kukakiwa and Ogata in the third quarter put the game out of reach, and a pair of 1-yard scores from Mitchell Camacho put the game in running clock territory in the fourth quarter. The mercy rule lead was short lived, as Blitzen Benz’s 6-yard touchdown cut the Roosevelt lead to 34 with 4:02 left.
Countering Kekahuna’s special day was Waialua’s Kai Hoekstra, who finished with four receptions for 75 yards and a touchdown. Defensively, he logged an interception and punt block.