Hilo’s Keanu Keolanui let his 55-yard field-goal attempt rip as the final two seconds expired. The ball traveled high and true. Was it long enough? Apparently, just enough.
The ball hit the crossbar and the momentum carried it up and through the goalposts to give the Vikings a stunning 20-17 victory over ‘Iolani in Friday’s Division II final of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Football State Championships at Aloha Stadium.
The boot tied an all-division state tournament record and capped a 14-0 season for the boys from the Big Island.
“So many things were going though my head when I made that field goal,” Keolanui said. “To win this my senior year for my team is such a good feeling.”
Hilo almost got it done one possession earlier, driving to the Raiders’ 14, but the Vikings fumbled it away and left it up to their defense to get a stop. After three passes and an ‘Iolani punt, Hilo took over at the 50 with eight seconds to go. Quarterback Kyan Miyasato passed to Kilohana Haasenritter, who got out of bounds after a 12-yard gain.
“We said, ‘You gotta get the ball out in three seconds and we’ll take what they give us and call timeout,” Vikings coach Kaeo Drummondo said. “They gave us the out. We kicked the field goal. It worked.”
With all of those things coming together just right for Hilo on the final series of events, the coach added, “Lucky,” to his statement.
‘Iolani grabbed a 17-3 halftime lead, but could not keep the momentum. After a sluggish start, Hilo’s passing game started to come together in the second quarter. It didn’t result in points, but it let the Raiders know the Vikings were still in it.
Unfortunately for Hilo, ‘Iolani’s Lanakila Pei returned a punt a tournament-record 94 yards for a touchdown on the last play of the first half.
The 14-point deficit didn’t deter the Vikings, though.
“Just have nerves of steel,” Drummondo told his players at the break. “I told them that they played well in the second quarter and we gave up that uncharacteristic punt return that we never give up. ‘You are executing, so now come out and do the exact same thing and we’ll be fine.’ ”
And fine they were. Kalen White’s fumble recovery led to Haasenritter’s 6-yard touchdown run to make it 17-10 with 1:40 left in the third quarter.
Despite a 70-yard punt by the Raiders’ Wailoa Manuel, ‘Iolani couldn’t keep Hilo pinned. Miyasato delivered a pass to Guyson Ogata down the left sideline and Ogata got free for a 78-yard catch-and-run touchdown to knot it 17-all with 7:10 remaining.
“They (the Raiders) came out stronger and faster than us,” the Vikings’ White said. “At halftime, Coach gave us a really good talk that it’s not over. He told us how we always respond to adversity and always come right back.”
Manuel had a chance to give ‘Iolani a lead on its next possession, but his 45-yard field-goal attempt went wide left. Earlier, he hit on a 45-yarder to open the scoring.
It remained 17-17 the rest of the way until Keolanui — who kicked a 47-yarder in the second quarter — took his turn at getting it done.
“I was nervous,” he said. “After I kicked it, I looked at it and honestly started celebrating. Then I looked back and saw it hit the crossbar. When I saw it bounce, I knew it was good. We wanted to show that the Big Island isn’t underrated and that we can play and put on a show for everybody, too.”
Added White on Keolanui: “We all love him and trust him. We knew he could make it.”
The Vikings’ title is their second in the past three years.
“I can’t ask for a better group of young men,” Drummondo said. “They do so much behind the scenes that nobody sees. I’m overjoyed for them. So many emotions.”
‘Iolani (10-3), the owner of eight D-II state championships, is now 0-2 in D-I state title games. The Raiders were going for their first state crown since 2014.
“Any time you lose, especially in a championship game, there’s going to be heartbreak for the kids,” ‘Iolani coach Wendell Look said. “They put so much into it. They have nothing to be ashamed of. Hilo came to play. In the second half, they really shut us down and found their own rhythm on offense. We just didn’t get it done.”