By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
KEAAU — The numbers didn't add up, but Waiakea won anyway.
Despite not scoring on offense and losing the stat battle, the Warriors somehow found a way to beat Keaau 13-7 in a Big Island Interscholastic Federation football game Saturday at the Cougars Stadium.
In the first half, the Warriors (2-4 overall, 2-2 BIIF) inch-wormed to only 31 yards of offense, none through the air. They finished with 132 total yards, most of it from Devin Preston.
The senior running back had 27 yards on seven carries in the first half. In the second half, Preston made his own holes and blasted through Keaau's tough defensive wall for 84 yards on 21 carries.
That was all good for 111 yards on 29 carries, a 3.8 yard per attempt average. Pono Auwae was next with 4 yards on four carries. Quarterback Bryce Felipe was 2 of 11 for 20 yards with a pick.
"Keaau played us tough," Waiakea coach Moku Pita said. "Our offense was not working. Our defense saved the day for us. Today we didn't have any rhythm on offense. We tried to pass, but some days it's on and sometimes it's off."
The Warriors won the turnover battle, often the stat that makes a world of difference. The visitors had three giveaways. None came back to bite them.
The same can't be said for the Cougars (0-4, 0-4), who had four turnovers, including a pair that were turned into game-changing touchdowns.
Keaau had 215 yards of offense. Quarterback George Lucas-Tadeo was 17 of 34 for 148 yards with one interception. Justin Quesada rushed for 43 yards on 12 carries, and Richard Hatori-Kanakaole added 18 yards on eight attempts.
Those stats were nice, but it didn't matter much. It wasn't just the giveaways, but the Cougars had a few missed opportunities, for example, fumbling in the red zone at the 5-yard line on a read-option pitch in the second quarter.
But no doubt the turnovers hurt more.
In the first quarter, Shane Picanco scooped up a fumble and raced 93 yards for Waiakea's first score.
Right before the Cougar fumble in the red zone, Waiakea's Zac Correa and Keaau's Usti Koga snagged interceptions.
Later in the second quarter, Kahuhipa Donner scored on a 4-yard run to tie it 7-7, getting the game's only offensive touchdown.
Then after a scoreless third quarter, all the game's drama started overflowing like a hot tea pot in the final 12 minutes.
Down the stretch, in the fourth quarter, Waiakea got the ball near midfield, and produced a long-sustained, time-consuming drive behind the powerful legs of Preston.
At Keaau's 21-yard line on fourth-and-2 with less than four minutes left, the Warriors went for it, running Preston through the tackle gap on the left.
Waiakea junior Zach Devela took care of the inside, and senior tackle Kyle Willocks sealed the edge, giving Preston just enough room to push through for a 5-yard gain.
Three plays later, on the third-and-goal at the 4-yard line, Felipe ran a read-option, keeping the ball and getting a pretty good block from Preston. He didn't get in but fell just inches from the end zone.
The clock read 2:53 remaining. It was fourth-and-goal at the 1. Keaau's defense plugged every gap, and forced Felipe to fumble, and Haaheo Chan recovered.
It was the second time the Warriors prevented a touchdown. In a few seconds, they would cash in a Keaau turnover for a defensive touchdown also for the second time.
The Cougars took over at their 1-yard line. On the ensuing play, Lucas-Tadeo threw a pass in the end zone that hit the ground, but ruled a lateral.
Waiakea's Keala Fong fell on the ball for a touchdown. As coach Pita said, defense saved the day.
Waiakea 7 0 0 6 — 13
Keaau 0 7 0 0 — 7
Wai — Shane Picanco 93 fumble return (Tyler Kerr kick), 10:57
Kea — Kahuhipa Donner 4 run (Richard Hatori-Kanakaole kick), 1:35
Wai — Keala Fong fumble recovery end zone (kick failed), 2:44