By JOE FERRARO
KEALAKEHE — The way David Fangupo saw it, Jordan Cristobal’s touchdown pass to Vincent Paogofie as time expired in the first half turned the Kealakehe Waveriders into a bunch of sharks circling prey in the ocean.
And sure enough, even though it happened a week after they started their Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division I football championship game against Hilo, the Waveriders went in for the kill Saturday night at Waverider Stadium.
In the resumption of a game postponed last week because of a tsunami warning on the Big Island, Kealakehe scored 20 unanswered points, riding its punishing running attack and stingy defense to a 40-22 victory that gave the Waveriders their third consecutive BIIF Division I title.
Kealakehe (10-1), which earned the league’s lone berth in the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division I state playoffs, will host Oahu Interscholastic Association No. 3 seed Farrington (9-2) at 7 p.m. Friday in a first-round game.
Fangupo said the Waveriders believed they were on their way after Paogofie came down with a jump ball at the Vikings’ 5-yard line before turning and waltzing into the end zone for a 42-yard touchdown pass — and a 27-14 Kealakehe lead.
The played capped a four-play, 65-yard drive that started with 58.8 seconds left in the first half — the time remaining when league officials postponed the Division I final last week at Kealakehe.
“We smelled blood in the water,’’ said the 348-pound Fangupo, who finished with 39 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. “Right when that came, the momentum was in our favor.’’
For Lennox Jones, who rushed for 159 yards and a touchdown on just 13 carries, Cristobal’s TD pass gave the Waveriders an air of invincibility because it happened so quickly against a much-improved Hilo team that finished 7-3 after going winless in 2011.
“It felt like no one could stop us,’’ Jones said.
After receiving the second-half kickoff, it took the Waveriders just 1:46 to extend its lead. Jones ripped off a 47-yard run on a sprint down the right sideline, and Fangupo scored on an 8-yard touchdown run three plays later, bulling over a defender at the line of scrimmage before running in for a 33-14 advantage and essentially wrapping up a state playoff berth.
Jones and Fangupo often ran through the line untouched before meeting some resistance in the Vikings’ linebacking corps, taking advantage of big holes the offensive line of Feke Sopoaga-Kioa, Tui Eli, Prince Samoa, Siosaia Kalavi and Giovanni Chanes-Rodriguez created.
Cristobal went 5-of-9 for 110 yards passing but also rushed for 108 yards and a score on 12 carries for a Kealakehe team that finished with 470 yards of total offense.
“They opened up holes anybody could run through,’’ Fangupo said of his offensive line.
Meanwhile, Kealakehe’s defense made life more difficult on dual-threat quarterback Drew Kell, who had passed for 85 yards and rushed for 82 before league officials postponed the game last week.
Waveriders coach Sam Papalii said he challenged his defense during practice.
“If they don’t score against us we win,’’ Papalii told his team, making reference to the 20-14 lead Kealakehe took into the resumption of the football game.
The Waveriders responded, limiting the Vikings to just three first downs and only 40 yards of offense in their first three drives of the second half.
Thanks in large part to linebackers Manase Hungalu and Kyler O’Halloran, Kealakehe kept Kell from turning the corner on the edge and heading upfield for big runs as he did last week when the pocket collapsed.
Kell, who finished the game 14-of-35 for 161 yards and two interceptions, started the second half by completing just 2 of 12 passes for 27 yards.
“We had to have speed on the defensive line, and we ran some defensive line stunts,’’ Hungalu said. “All week, we’ve been practicing it, and it showed tonight.’’
Hilo ended the game on a high note offensively, putting together a 15-play, 92-yard drive Kell capped with his third rushing touchdown — a 1-yard plunge with 2:27 remaining.
After the game, Vikings coach David Baldwin spent time consoling a host of emotional seniors who saw their high school careers come to an end.
“This game was to be one of two things: special or amazing,’’ Baldwin said. “When your choices are special and amazing, you’re having a good season.’’
After the game, Hungalu emphasized that the Waveriders’ season isn’t over just because they had won a championship.
The senior said the team’s goal since it began spring practice in March wasn’t a BIIF crown, but a state title.
“We knew coming in that BIIF champs isn’t where were going to stop,’’ Hungalu said.
Hilo 0 14 0 8 — 22
Kealakehe 14 13 6 7 — 40
Keal — Jordan Cristobal 13 run (kick failed), 8:24
Keal — Lennox Jones 5 run (David Fangupo run), 34.6
Keal — Raymond Yadao 16 pass from Jordan Cristobal (run failed), 7:30
Hilo — Drew Kell 9 run (Keola Miller), 5:38
Hilo — Kell 1 run (Keola Miller), 58.8
Keal — Vincent Paogofie 42 pass from Cristobal (Jones kick), 0:00
Keal — David Fangupo 8 run (run failed), 10:14
Keal — Fangupo 3 run (Jones kick), 9:44
Hilo — Kell 1 run (Jacob Genegabuas pass from Kell), 2:27